Directors UK, the Brit org representing 7,500 screen directors, has published updated guidelines for helming nudity and sex scenes in the pandemic era.
The suggestions include the idea that, at script stage, filmmakers could consider whether depicting sex on screen is necessary, “The director, writer and producer should review the script together and agree which physical interactions need to occur between performers and decide whether substitutions can be made. Does a physical act need to be shown? If working within a series format, can the intimacy be delayed?”
The doc suggests that “the build up to an intimate scene can sometimes be more exciting than the scene itself” and that “emotional intimacy can be as engaging as physical intimacy”.
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The doc goes on to suggest directors and writers should revisit classic films from an era where sex was not allowed to be shown on screen for inspiration: “You may even find inspiration by revisiting classic films such as It Happened One Night (1934) or Casablanca (1943) – some of the greatest screen romances ever made and all filmed under the Hays Code, which prohibited the depiction of sex on screen. Consider what tools classic works offer for contemporary storytelling.”
In production, the guidelines float several get-arounds for filming intimate scenes, including suggesting that filmmakers use actors’ real-life partners when pick-ups and close-ups can’t be avoided, an idea that first comes from The Nordic Film Guide. It does however note that “not all partners would be comfortable with doing this” and many “won’t be a physical match for the on-screen lover”.
Filmmakers might question whether such compromises could diminish the integrity of their product, but shooting in the pandemic is already drastically different and addressing concerns at script stage is one way around that.
Whether these guidelines need to be consulted for the long-term will depend on the evolution of the virus. At present, the industry is desperate to get more production back underway and these suggestions could at least ease their process. You can read the full document here.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a new set of challenges for us to navigate. Directors are inherent problem solvers, and we can’t wait to get back to work,” said Susanna White.
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