There are several different areas an individual needs to be proficient in in order to effectively intimacy coordinate a film while reducing harm. While each area will inform an intimacy coordinator’s work, how these skills are obtained and incorperated is based solely on the individual. There is no one way to be an intimacy coordinator or to approach this work.

*Please note, I have broken these skills up into “Important” and “Helpful.”

**Under each qualification I listed “Ways to Learn.” These are meant to be a jumping off point, not a comprehensive list for how to obtain these skills. When possible, I have prioritized accessible, low cost options, most of which I myself have utilized in my own learning.

Overview of Qualifications

Important

  • Anti-Harassment and Bystander Intervention
  • Anti-Racism
  • Body Inclusivity
  • Closure
  • Communication
  • Consent and Boundaries
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Human Rights and Intersectionality
  • Masking Techniques
  • Mental Health First Aid
  • Movement and Choreography
  • Sex Education
  • Trauma and Somatic Responses

Helpful

  • Acting and Character Work
  • Camera Shots, Angles, and Composition
  • Health and Safety
  • Laws, Contracts, and Legal Paperwork
  • Sewing
  • Sounds and Breathwork
  • Storytelling and Screenwriting

What Are the Required Qualifications to Work on a SAG•AFTRA Set?

SAG•AFTRA requires “proof of training in the following areas within the last five years:”

• Consent Training
• Anti-harassment/anti-sexual harassment training
• Movement coaching and masking techniques
• Proper use of modesty garments and barriers
• Mediation or conflict resolution training
• Gender identity & sexual orientation training
• Anti-Racist/EDI training
• Bystander intervention
• Mental Health First Aid, Trauma Stewardship, or related training

An intimacy coordinator must also pass a background check.

Why Is My List of Qualifications Longer Than SAG•AFTRA?

My list is extensive because I believe these skills are necessary to reduce harm in the industry; appropriately support actors, crew, and audience members; and create realistic intimacy on screen. I have developed my list of qualifications based on my experiences as an intimacy coordinator and studies in the areas of social justice and human rights. To learn more about my qualifications view my résumé.

Is Certification Required?

No, an intimacy coordinator certification is not required to work on any film or tv show, SAG•AFTRA or otherwise. That being said, many people choose to seek certification because it is a way to learn many of these areas in a concentrated program. It should be noted that there is no certification program currently in existence which covers all the areas listed in this article and they often expect some amount of supplemental learning. For some individuals, particularly those who have been working in similar areas such as sex workers, therapists, stunt coordinators, circus actors, or directors just to name a few find they need only supplemental training in areas which they do not have relevant experience in. This list is meant to help individuals determine what they need to learn in order to be prepared to work as an intimacy coordinator. It should not be used as the sole judge to determine if an individual is qualified.

To learn more about the debate around certification and whether it should be required read The Certification Question by Chelsea Pace.

Qualifications

Important

Anti-Harassment and Bystander Intervention

Recognizing when and how to step-in and step-up to protect individuals is one of the most important skills an intimacy coordinator must poses.  This skill is not just for the actors’ benefit, but rather it should help create a safe and equitable environment for everyone involved with a production.

Ways to Learn

Video

How To Support Witnesses of Harassment and Build Healthier Workplaces

Cost: Free

Online Class (Live)

Hollaback!

Cost: Free

Online and In-Person Classes

Impact Boston

Cost: $95 – $185 (Scholarships Available)


Anti-Racism

Anti-racism means actively addressing racism both past and present in an effort to prevent it in the future. An intimacy coordinator must practice anti-racism in all areas including preventing and addressing harm in the work place, on screen, and in the film and television industry as a whole. It includes prioritizing global majority voices both behind and in front of the camera. It also means creating opportunities for global majority members to occupy positions which they have traditionally been excluded from.

Ways to Learn

Video

Shedding Layers: A Guide to Beginning Your Anti-Racism Journey in Burlesque

Cost: Free

Book

The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority by Ellen D. Wu

Cost: $27.95 on Wordery

Book

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Cost: $27 from Hudson Booksellers


Body Inclusivity

Because intimacy coordinators work on scenes of nudity it is necessary for individuals in the field use language which is inclusive of all bodies and genders so that they do not trigger common mental health problems such as eating disorders or body dysmorphia. Using body nutral language can help support all actors regardless of underlying conditions by shifting the focus away from beauty and gender standards towards what the body is physically capable of. This is key to developing an actor’s relationship to their body during vulnerable performances and using it as a tool for character work. Intimacy coordinators also need to have a basic understanding of eating disorders and how to support individuals who experience them as an extension of their mental health training.

Ways to Learn

Article

How to Use Inclusive Language in Healthcare

Cost: Free

Online Class

Exploring Body Neutrality and Body Image with Jameela Jamil

Cost: Free

Online Certification

Introduction to Eating Disorders Certificate

Cost: $84.99


Closure

Closure practices are one of the more important tools an intimacy coordinator introduces to set. Through the development of culturally appropriate closure practices an intimacy coordinator can support members of the cast and crew in successfully making it through the stress cycle so that the work they are creating together does not lead to trauma.

Ways to Learn

TEDTalk

Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski: The Cure for Burnout

Cost: Free

Online Classes (Live)

Intimacy Directors and Coordinators

Cost: Sliding Scale (With Discounts for Global Majority Members)

Online Class (Self-Paced)

Heartland Intimacy and Design Training – The Core Curriculum

Cost: $250


Communication

Efficiently and effectively communicating on both the individual and group level is one of the skills which is most consistently utilized by an intimacy coordinator throughout the process. Setting up clear lines of communication from the begining prevents problems with miscomunication later on inlcuding ones which can lead to violations of consent. It is important that an intimacy coodinator be flexible in their communication style so that they can meet individuals where they are at and quickly establish a common diologue between cast and crew members.

Ways to Learn

Workshops

National Conflict Resolution Center

Cost: Free – $

Book

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B Rosenberg

Cost: $18 on Wordery

Book

Conflict is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair by Sarah Schulman

Cost: $18.76 on Wordery


Consent and boundaries are critical for an intimacy coordinator to understand in order to reduce harm when working on scenes of intimacy.  Not only should they understand consent and boundaries, but they should be able to effectively teach these concepts to cast and crew members using a variety of tools and techniques.

Ways to Learn

Instagram

@PeacefulMindPeacefulLife

Cost: Free

Book

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay

Cost: $16.99 on Wordery

Book

Can We Talk About Consent?: A book about freedom, choices, and agreement by Justin Hancock

Cost: $13.75 on Wordery


Gender and Sexuality

While understanding intersectionality generally is important, intimacy coordinators work consistantly intersects with gender and sexuality. Therefore, it is critical that an intimacy coordinator feels confident conversing about diverse genders and sexualities beyond the binary, enough so that they feel comfortable challenging stereotypes on screen and providing support to members of the LGBTQIA+ community on set.

Ways to Learn

Instagram

Zoe Stoller

Cost: Free

Online Classes (Live)

Transgender Training Institute

Cost: Pay What You Can

Book

The History of Sexuality: An Introduction by Michel Foucault

Cost: $15.15 on Wordery


Human Rights and Intersectionality

Understanding intersectionality, oppression, and power dynamics will help an intimacy coordinator protect and collaborate with all individuals on set regardless of their background or identity. Common areas of study include race, dis/ability, gender, age, and culture. It is relevant for an intimacy coordinator to also study human rights specific to their geographic region and the content they are working on.

Ways to Learn

Book

Read This to Get Smarter: ABOUT RACE, CLASS, GENDER, DISABILITY & MORE by Blair Imani

Cost: $16.99 on Penguin Random House

Book

Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw and Neil Gotanda

Cost: $31.07 on Wordery

Book

Women, Race & Class by Angela Y. Davis

Cost: $16.95 on Wordery


Masking Techniques

Masking techniques are the methods and tools used to simultaneously protect actors physically through the use of barriers while hiding that they are doing so from the audience, particularly during scenes of simulated nudity or sex. For intimacy coordinators, this is often accomplished by providing physical intimacy barriers or modesty garments in combination with choreography which strategically accounts for the angle of the camera.

Ways to Learn

Online Workshop (Live)

Theatrical Intimacy Education

Cost: $30 – $155

Certification (Live)

Intimacy Professionals Association

Cost: Unknown

Certification (Live)

Centaury Co.

Cost: $5000


Mental Health First Aid

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) covers the basics of responding to a mental health crisis.  The course includes information about appropriate language, common diagnosis, and when to refer an individual to a mental health professional.  This certification can be obtained through various organizations and typically needs renewed every two years.

Ways to Learn

Online or In-Person Certification Course

Mental Health First Aid from The National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Cost: Free – $

Online Course

Johns Hopkins University: Psychological First Aid

Cost: Free


Movement and Choreography

Movement training can come in many different forms – be it dance, acting, stunts, yoga, or any number of other physical practices. Essentially, an intimacy coordinator must understand how to work with the body, communicate choreography, and help people with the physical aspects of a scene.

Ways to Learn

At Home

While learning from the expertise of an experienced teacher is best, you can also learn on your own for free in the comfort of your own home! Learn to choreograph using your own body. Try choreographing a small dance or movement sequence and filming yourself using your phone.

Learn more about the elements of choreographing and notating intimacy here.

Cost: Free

YouTube

Jessica Richburg – Yoga

Cost: Free

Online Class (Self-Paced)

Sky Sirens Online Classes

Cost: $60 – $90


Sex Education

When discussing, choreographing, and representing sexual scenes it behooves any intimacy coordinator to have a thorough understanding of the content they are working on. A general understanding of sex organs and genitalia, the body, and sexual intercourse for all genders and sexualities as well as diverse kinks, BDSM, and fetishes is necessary to create accurate and thoughtful representations of sex on screen.

Ways To Learn

Online

Lustzine: The Uncensored Mag from Erika Lust

Cost: Free

Online Classes (Live with Recordings)

SHIP

Cost: Name Your Price

Classes and Certification

Institute of Sexuality Education and Enlightenment (ISEE)

Cost: Various (Scholarships Available)


Trauma and Somatic Responses

Understanding trauma and its relationship with the body is important in providing support to survivors as well as preventing future traumatization when working on intimate and physical content.

Ways to Learn

Book

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk

Cost: $17.45 on Wordery

Online Webinars

International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation

Cost: $39 – $79

Online Certification

University of Buffalo School of Social Work Continuing Education: Trauma-Informed Organization Certificate Program

Cost: $240


Helpful

Acting and Character Work

Understanding the basics of an actor’s craft helps intimacy coordinators communicate about character and scene context when developing scenes of intimacy. Utilizing vocabulary that is familiar to actors can help put them at ease and encourage them to dive deeper into their acting.


Camera Shots, Angles, and Composition

An intimacy coordinator is an intimacy professional who works specifically on digital media including films and tv shows. It is therefore quite helpful to understand camera shots, angles, and composition to correctly advice on modesty garments, bariers, and nudity riders as well as to communicate effectively with the director and DP while on set.

Beyond the basics of common shots and angles, it can greatly benefit an intimacy coordinator to understand the gaze. Coined by Laura Mulvey in her 1973 essay Visual Pleasures and Narrative Cinema, the gaze is a way of understanding how the camera, actor, and audience are connected and how they are meant to identify. To learn more, read my essay Explaining Psychoanalytic Theory in Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”. Beyond this, you will find other essays on my blog which discuss the gaze and/or camera composition if you would like further reading including Gender Construction and the Gaze in Deepa Mehta’s Fire and The Victor Writes the Story: Interpreting Narrations in The Opposite of Sex.

Ways to Learn

Watch

Cost: Free


Health and Safety

An important part of harm reduction is understanding the physical risks involved with intimacy (even simulated intimacy) including STIs, bloodborne pathogens, and commonly transmitted infections and diseases including COVID-19.

Ways to Learn

Blog Post

Minimizing Illness and the Transmission of Infections on Set: In Conversation with Evelin Dacker, MD by Kristina Valentine

Cost: Free

Online Certification

Safe Sets International

Cost: Free

Online Training

American Red Cross: Bloodborne Pathogens Training

Cost: $35


Contracts such as nudity riders and deal memos are documents an intimacy coordinator frequently comes into contact with. The level of understanding needed can very depending on who else is on the team. For instance, an intimacy coordinator with an agent might not need to understand how to write and negotiate their contract. An intimacy coordinator may or may not be expected to draft a nudity rider depending on the producers and agents involved, but they should be prepared to weigh in on what is included based on the actors’ boundaries and the choreography which is agreed upon.

It is also important for an intimacy coordinator to know how to legally protect themselves and others in case of a law suit. An intimacy coorodinator should familiarize themsleves with the laws regarding nudity and sex in the arts in whatever area they are working in. In many locations there might be restrictions in place which prevent certain acts or depictions. It is also important to think about where the film will be shown and if the content is appropreate for those places.

Learn More

Blog Post

Elements of a Nudity Rider by Acacia

Cost: Free


Sewing

While sewing is not a necessary skill to be an intimacy coordinator, knowing how to use a needle and thread can be useful when getting creative with barriers. From sewing them into clothing to adding them to underwear, sewing skills can come in handy in a pinch.


Sounds and Breathwork

Helping an actor develop the sounds of a scene can add a lot to the believability of the moment as well as taking the burden of “sounding sexy” off the individual actor. Breathwork has the additional benefit of helping anxiety or calming people during a mental health emergency.


Storytelling and Screenwriting

The first source of information for an intimacy coordinator is typically the screenplay. It is from this text as well as conversations with the director, actors, and other key crew members that a scene develops. Therefore an intimacy coordinator needs to understand how to read and work with a screenplay.


Would You Like to Learn More About Qualifications for Intimacy Coordinators?

Reach out! I am happy to answer further questions you might have.

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