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How are sex scenes shot in movies?

08:08 PM Aug 14, 2022 IST | Ground Report
how are sex scenes shot in movies

In recent years there have been two phenomena that have revolutionized the Film industry: on the one hand, many workers began to dare to talk about situations of abuse that were totally naturalized and, on the other hand, the actresses began to put limits on their scenes of nudity, what body parts they were comfortable showing, and even how these sequences should be shot.

The content and expectations of any sex scene on film or television should be dictated by contracts, negotiations, and open communication around choreography and consent. Today, privacy coordinators oversee many of these protocols on a set. They, along with the director or showrunner, decide who will be present on the day of the shoot (intimate scenes often require a "closed set" of only the necessary talent and equipment); what the crew should expect to see and film; and how the costume, makeup, and prop teams will work with the actors to add details, like fake sweat.


Producers, directors and privacy coordinators should be aware of the content of each performer's nudity or simulated sex clause, which contractually specifies what is and is not acceptable. An actor can also request the script pages for any intimate or nude scenes that are attached to her rider.

From an innocent kiss to the most violent sex scene, as of 2017, the productions added the figure of the intimacy coordinator. A role that has existed in the theatre for a long time but that -increasingly- in cinema and television becomes an essential job.


What does intimacy coordination solve?

Before taking on her new task in the newly created intimacy coordination position, Rodis presented her training with psychologists, lawyers, social workers and sex workers to address the issues that can arise during the filming of a sex scene, in a series of areas ranging from consent to the comfort of the performer's thanks to the use of clothing accessories designed to cover the genitals of the actors.


Nudity and simulated sex are outlined in detail in the actor's contract and discussed prior to casting.

How exactly do actors film sex scenes?


In practice, it could happen that the creatives gave an actor or actress a different instruction than what was agreed, assuming that they would have to limit it, or they could argue that since they had already undressed in another film, they had to repeat it.

Shooting intimate scenes can take anywhere from three to five hours for a television episode or short film, to more than a full day for a feature film. Directors may want to capture a close-up, wide shot, and medium shot to edit together the best version of the scene in post. All the work up to this point is designed precisely so that the actors feel safe repeating the stage work.


Duties of the Privacy Coordinator include pre-production, choreography, creating a safe work environment ( ensuring a closed set and that boundaries/consent are clear and specific ), on-set coordination (with costume and makeup departments), and post-production.

“A lot of my work is done in pre-production. I meet with the director to find out what he is looking for in the story, the tone and what he wants from that scene. We also specify which parts of the body are going to be seen. Sometimes they know what they want, other times we work together to coordinate the scenes and the movement. Then I meet privately with the actors to ratify their agreement and receive their comments.

After rehearsing and reviewing the movements, the Intimacy coordinator talks with the director of photography to review how the scene will look and where they will put the camera. "I also work closely with the script supervisor, who might highlight if a scene was shot incorrectly. For example, if the body parts of an actress were seen that could not be shown by contract because she may be able to show her bust but not her nipples; if these did show up, you'd have to make a note to cut them out in post-production".

Cover-ups or full-body makeup can shield certain parts of the body from the camera and prevent genital-to-genital contact, which is strictly prohibited in collective ensembles. Shibues and hibues, strapless thongs, are a popular form of modesty patch. They adhere to the body and give the illusion of nudity without revealing the actor's genitalia.

Baby oil easily removes these adhesives. People with male genitalia may choose to wear a "sock," a skin-coloured drawstring bag that holds the penis and testicles. People with breasts may choose to use pasties over their nipples. Actors sometimes wear elbow or knee pads for practicality and comfort, especially when shooting for hours a day, but only when lockdown means these pads are out of shot. Props such as pillows, yoga mats, and stress balls can also be placed between the actors or prosthetics can be used as well.

4 essential points to film simulated sex scenes in cinema and television

  1. Consent of the actors.
  2. Agreement with the production (director, cinematographer and post-production department).
  3. A Modesty Garment is like a thong with nothing on the sides that covers the private parts since there is never contact with the genitals.
  4. A foam cushion so that the actors do not touch each other; ensures that there is no skin-to-skin friction.

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