How Sex Scenes Are Shot In Movies And TV Shows | Movies Insider


From flesh-colored underwear
to concealed cushions, capturing authentic-looking sex on camera isn’t always straightforward. Some films intentionally
feature dodgy intercourse to invoke humor. But for the genuinely romantic depiction, actors and directors can
face a myriad of challenges. Film sets are often packed,
demanding, and tiring. A far cry from the sexy
mood you see on screen. We caught up with a leading
intimacy coordinator to find out how sex scenes
are filmed in movies. Moviegoers generally accept that the first ever on-camera orgasm in a non-pornographic film was in the 1933 Czech film “Ecstasy,” a romantic drama starring Hedy Lamarr. But it’s only in the last few
years that a specified role to guide and coach actors for love scenes has become mainstream. One such coordinator is Ita O’Brien, who worked on Netflix’s “Sex Education,” as well as HBO’s “Watchmen.” Ita O’Brien: So, an intimacy
coordinator puts in place a structure that allows for
agreement and consent of touch with intimate scenes, and then a process that choreographs the
intimate scenes clearly. Narrator: Rehearsals start
with a series of exercises around consent of touch. Actor 1: May I hug you chest to chest? Actor 2: Yes, you may. Actor 1: I put my arm around your chest. Actor 2: I take ahold of your hand. Actor 1: I take your hand with my hand. Narrator: Ita will then block the scene with the actors closely, discussing the motivations for each moment of sexual contact. She also encourages productions to create a positive on-set environment. And actors do need protecting, as love scenes often
leave them vulnerable. Maria Schneider accused
director Bernardo Bertolucci of emotionally assaulting her by insisting on a now infamous rape scene in 1972’s “Last Tango in Paris.” And Salma Hayek accused controversial
producer Harvey Weinstein of insisting on a nude scene in “Frida.” The first season of
Netflix’s “Sex Education,” shot in 2018, was the network’s first production to employ an intimacy coordinator. The show features a variety
of intimate content, from masturbation to sexually
charged confrontations. Ncuti Gatwa: We had to watch videos depicting different
animals’ mating rituals. Aimee Lou Wood: Slugs.
Connor Swindells: Slugs. Ncuti: Lions, cats, dogs. Aimee and Conner: Bonobos. Narrator: To protect the young cast from being naked on set, Ita devised a series of
cushions made from lamb’s wool. Ita: This stuff is the equivalent of the stunt coordinator’s crash mats. You can just give another barrier sort of by placing that in between. So that means that they
can be lying on that, sort of in positions, and have it hidden. But I actually used this as well for a moment of simulated cunnilingus. So, the actress was able to sit on that, and it really gives quite a strong, you know, and, again, it gives a sense of a dress on over the top. Narrator: Actors can wear varying layers of flesh-colored underwear
held together with tape. Nipple pasties can be
worn to cover breasts. And, yes, they do even
arrive in a headphone pouch. Ita: The least that they would
wear is this genitalia patch, flesh-colored pant stroke shorts, or flesh-colored shorts, like that. So, this obviously then is a G-string for, or a dance belt for a man. So again, you’ve got a good cup in here. Very often, of course, you
do the wide shot first. But in this, it’s actually
better if you do the closer up so they can be more covered. And then, if they can really
find the flow and the rhythm and the breath, and if they’re
completely comfortable, and then they’re like, oh,
yeah, OK, fine, we’ll take the layer off, and then
we’ll take another layer off. Narrator: But for these
fully frontal moments, female actors can also wear a merkin, which is an artificial
cover for pubic hair. In an interview with Allure magazine, Kate Winslet said that
the producers made her one for her Oscar-winning turn
in 2008’s “The Reader.” Choreography and clothing are important, ensuring the actors look like they’re touching the right
part of someone’s body. But directors can also give
the illusion of intercourse through camera movement
or camera position, cheating the shot. Practical effects can also
assist scenes by adding drama. If two people can’t keep
their hands off each other, why not add in a little
thunder and lightning or get them soaked in the rain? Glycerin spray, oil, or water can be added to the actors’ skin to give them that sweaty look. And then there’s some
more extreme augmentation. Visual effects have been used to splice together the actor’s face and their double’s nude body. In Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac,” actors’ faces were superimposed on porn performers’ bodies using CGI. And elements like props
and music can be important. Ever watched a film and thought it was just
tacky or unconvincing? In the history of cinema, there have been some
unnecessary additions of props like candle wax or ice cream or people proceeding
to accurately fire guns whilst having sex. A sex scene can also be
ruined by out-of-place music, like the inclusion of Leonard
Cohen’s “Hallelujah” playing while Silk Spectre and Nite Owl make love in 2009’s “Watchmen.” Then there’s the lovemaking
that gets a weirdly paced edit, like the lustless, mechanical movements between Trinity and Neo
in “The Matrix Reloaded.” And enthusiastic foreplay that is better than the main event. We’re looking at you, Bella and Edward. That’s not to say that
plain old bad acting doesn’t sometimes influence the outcome. Actors here at Ita O’Brien’s workshop may go away with a changed perspective on how to approach intimate encounters by putting a series of
safeguards in place, being professional, and having fun.

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