11 Feb 2020

Daily working life of an intimacy coordinator

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:30 pm on 11 February 2020

Since the #metoo movement, intimacy coordination on the sets of films, television and theatre has gained momentum in New Zealand.

Tandi Wright is a New Zealand actor and works as an intimacy co-ordinator in New Zealand and Australia for international company Intimacy on Set.

Tandi Wright in Alibi

Tandi Wright in Alibi Photo: Charles Howells

Wright first took on the role 18 months ago and says she wonders why it wasn’t around 10-years-ago.

She says when the #metoo movement took off it became very clear to a lot of people that things needed to change within the industry.

“The easiest way to explain it is if I compare intimacy coordination to a stunt coordinator, in a stunt there is inherent risk, people can get hurt and so they take that into account in planning and pre-production. There’s resources allocated to the scene, there’s a stunt coordinator, planning and rehearsal. 

“A scene with intimacy, it’s exactly the same, there’s an inherent risk in the scene, people might get hurt and that might be a physical hurt or it might be a psychological hurt.”

All sorts of things can go wrong, she says, and it’s not just direct abuse, it can be poor or non-existence planning leading to people having a bad experience. 

“You wouldn’t think so but directors and actors and producers are often embarrassed to talk about intimate material…so nobody does.”

Sometimes actors are told to go away and figure out the scene together, a situation Wright says is ripe for abuse.

“Or they might be told that they’ll be improvising in the moment, it will be organic, just go with it, which is another situation ripe for abuse.”

Often actors get to shooting and they have no idea what’s required of them and how explicit the scene will be.

“The actors will be feeling like their own sexual prowess will be on display and they’ll be judged and it’s terrifying…it doesn’t have to be like that.”

Wright has had to do numerous intimacy scenes in her own work as an actor and has had a mixed bag of results.

Intimacy coordination is about creating safe spaces for actors so that the scenes are robust and are as creative as any other scenes.

“What intimacy coordination really does is it’s professionalising this area of work, it’s putting sunlight on it, it’s making sure that communication is super clear.”

In her role, Wright talks to producers, directors and actors and makes sure there’s enough time for everyone to know what’s going on and to ask for specific details about the scene.

“Part of my job is to work out what support every particular actor will need because intimacy means something different for each person.”