When the posters of Deepika Padukone, Siddhant Chaturvedi, and Ananya Panday starrer ‘Gehraiyaan’ were released a few weeks back, people started noticing that an intimacy director was given a mention. This is a fairly new concept in the entertainment industry of having an intimacy director onboard a film or a show. So what exactly is this?
Intimacy directors are a new breed of filmmaking specialists who are guaranteeing that lovemaking in movies grows more believable. Not just that, they ensure that these scenes be even as pleasant as possible for both the actors involved and also doesn’t get vulgar or gross at any point for the audience. They’re not brought on board keeping in mind the censorship issues, but they’re brought more so to make the look and feel of the lovemaking scene more authentic, real, and, of course, passionate for the screen.
During an interview with Indian Express, Deepika Padukone said that showcasing “intimacy is not easy”. She said, “I don’t think it would be possible without the comfort that he (Shakun Batra, the director) has given all of us. You feel you are working in an extremely safe and secure environment because intimacy is not easy. It is not something that we have ever experienced or explored in Indian cinema before, in the way we have in this film. So, to go down that route of intimacy, of vulnerability, is only possible when you know that the director is not doing it for the eyeballs, but he is doing it because that’s just where the characters are coming from, through their journey and their experiences.”
With Bollywood filmmakers more openly exploring topics of relationships, sensuality, and sex for the screen, the creation of intimacy directors and intimacy coordinators in the business was foreseeable and to an extent even necessary. It's no wonder, therefore, that top production companies and OTT platforms are increasingly hiring these experts to direct the intimacy scenes and shots.
So, what exactly do intimacy directors do? Before any intimate scene is acted, the intimacy director works with the actors. S/he assists them to let go of their inhibitions for any intimacy to be acted. Not just that, s/he even choreographs their actions more attractively and aesthetically by familiarizing and sensitising the actors' bodies on how to engage with one another during the scene.
These intimacy directors or intimacy coordinators have a variety of tools that they utilize to achieve this goal. They conduct workshops to break the ice between the actors. Also, during these workshops, they assist the actors to practice and help in choreographing the intimate situations written on the script. The intimacy coordinator holds one-on-one talks with each actor, tries to understand their inhibitions, and then works upon that. S/he explicitly addresses the scenario, the boundaries that actors need to maintain, what would be considered consent, and what wouldn’t be. The best part is that these directors and coordinators will not leave anything to chance. They help the actors get assurance that help is accessible to them at any point during the shoot of those specific scenes. Overall, they help the actors open up further, get them into the zone where they can be bolder, push their boundaries, and at the same time feel more at ease with the performance.
For any director to portray a tale, as per his/her imagination, from his/her point of view, the onscreen chemistry between the actors is very essential. Intimacy directors or coordinators, therefore, serve as an important link between the filmmaker, who is essentially making the project, and the actor, who has to actually execute that scene in front of the camera, while shooting in front of nearly fifty to a hundred people on sets. These intimacy experts handle every facet of filming wherever an intimate moment is supposed to come. Not only that, they even choreography the body movements and help the actors be at ease.
Intimacy directors or coordinators are a relatively new concept in the Indian entertainment business. But is quite common in the west. Especially ever since the #MeToo movement became an eminent phenomenon there.
Web series, more than films and TV shows, are allowing for less censoring as there are still no stringent censorship rules for the web content. So these experts are making performers more sensitive to painful situations. Intimacy coordinators and directors are also trained in bystander intervention and trauma alleviation. They help control the number of people present on the sets for such a scene’s shoot. Also, if the actor/actress is having any bit of a traumatic experience, it’s the job of these experts to ensure that the performers are feeling they’re in a safe environment on sets. For all of this, the intimacy experts need to be well educated in the fields of psychology, law, and basic filmmaking.
Overall, an intimacy director ensures that the entire shoot atmosphere turns out to be comfortable for the actors and also protective for them from social anxiety or even trauma of any sort.