Breaking down a sex scene
How I break down a sex scene:
Breaking down a sex scene is like breaking down any other
scene. It has relationship, beats, place, and an arc. Breaking
down the scene starts with asking why why why.
1. Why are the characters having sex with each other?
2. Why are they having sex right now?
3. Why are they having sex right here?
1. Why are they having sex with each other:
Are they in a long term committed relationship? Is this a first
encounter? Are they strangers? The answers to this question will
tell us how comfortable they are with each other, how well they
know how to kiss each other, if they have a routine, and what level
of interest and attraction each character has for the other.
2. Why are they having sex right now? Asking why this scene is
where it is in the script will tell us what sparked the encounter,
which one of them is the initiator, and what the occasion is. All
of which shapes the relationship further and can help define
each character's arc so that there is a difference between their
actions and emotions.
3. Why are they having sex right here? Asking why they are in the location will help shape the character's relationship to place. Is it the home of one of the characters but the other has never been there? Are they both at home and the kids are down the hall? Is it a semi-public space where there is a danger of being caught? The answer to this will help shape the character's relationship to place, and how comfortable each of them is. If possible it's usually more interesting if each has a slightly different relationship to place so the scene is more dynamic.
Working through the answers to these questions is the beginning of breaking down the scene and helps me, the director and the actors develop a choreography that's right for the scene and the characters. Engaging the actors in the breakdown and choreography keeps the focus on story and establishes an agreement on the specific blocking and movements of the actors.
The level of nudity and explicitness depends on the intended rating and distribution platform or network, the director's vision, and the tone of the piece. It is never up to the Intimacy Coordinator. Ideally, this should be agreed upon with the actors in the casting and nudity rider phase of the project. However, if there is a conflict of vision there are a few ways of creating a solution to tell the story that does not violate the actor's boundaries. Simulating sex always involves cheating angles and camera cropping. These can be customized to achieve the visual story and accommodate actors' boundaries.
Barriers: Actors always always always need intimacy barriers. Shebus, Hebus, socks or patches must always be worn on set. Additional barriers can be used to prevents or obscure arousal non-concordance and my preferred material is memory foam. It provides a thick separation, changes shape to accommodate body curves and doesn't squeak. I cut a piece to accommodate the camera angle and tape it to one of the actors with medical tape. There are SO many tricks for simulating sex with positioning, barriers, and tools that are used to simulate realistic movements.
Intimacy Coordination not only protects the actors from having their personal boundaries from being crossed and the production from potential lawsuits. It really helps create realistic, dynamic sex scenes that fit the story much more than if you just have the actors improvising.