I attended the American Film Market this weekend at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. The Press Office was stationed this year in what was the gym and spa area. The gym where I was regular member until the hotel management summarily kicked out all the members (some of whom, like me, had been loyal and faithful promoters of the hotel for over 17 years before we were tossed out like used diapers.) It was a bittersweet moment, as I so loved the gym, the long term employees and this brought back scads of fond memories, along with the bitter taste of how badly it all ended.
Moving on though into the main lobby of the hotel where there was the usual coterie of international filmmakers, the cacophony of languages was thrilling. I heard Russian, Chinese, something Slavic, and one language that I couldn’t even begin to place so I’m just going to call it Klingon.
The global experience of the industry and market is one of the things I love the most. There’s the excitement of walking the hallways which are plastered with posters of movies and realizing just how many movies get made each year. As I tour the hotel I play a game of searching for my friends on the posters. This year I found Mario Van Peebles the actor/director/writer/producer on a poster for the movie SEIZED. It’s about a father fighting for his son, which grabbed my attention since that’s my day job. I reached out to Mario for a quote and he didn’t fail me. “When you realize your work is heard globally it underscores the importance of thinking about what you’re saying. The arts can entertain and inform us and actually be an example of how we can work together globally.”
This theme of ‘working together’ expanded for me over the day, as I continued to explore. I came across a presentation entitled “Shooting Intimate Scenes” presented by Amanda Blumenthal. (www.intimacycoordinator.com) Ms. Blumenthal is an Intimacy Coordinator and the founder and President of the Intimacy Professionals Association (https://www.intimacyprofessionalsassociation.com/). She was a sex and relationship coach prior to her current role where she advocates for actors and has the uncomfortable conversations that are necessary in a post #MeToo world. Her presentation at AFM was an excellent overview for her audience of about 60 people who were filmmakers of various roles, from actors to writers and producers. One actor/writer I spoke with, Roxann Nadine Remekie, told me, “I feel much safer with this information and knowing the role of the Intimacy Coordinator. I’ll definitely demand one on set in the future.”
Blumenthal comes from an industry family, both her parents were in it as well, so she grew up with a natural affinity for the creative. “This is kind of a natural thing for me, after my prior career as a sex and relationship coach” she said.
Speaking with her after the presentation I can see why she would be so effective in handling the inevitable conflicts and concerns – her natural charm and ease with people makes conversation with her easy and flowing. I found myself quite relaxed speaking with her. Given the pressures of a movie set, and the complexities of navigating simulated sex, I was surprised to learn that only HBO has an actual policy mandating the use of Intimacy Coordinators. The role has only been in service for a few years in Hollywood, but the live theater has had them for far longer.
Intimacy Coordinators are a new thing in Hollywood, and Blumenthal is training the next crop of new coordinators. Currently she said she has 3 women and 1 man in training, although the number of men applying for training is increasing for her next class. The course is 50 hours and has a 75 page workbook which covers far more than I imagined would be possible. But hearing Blumenthal speak it became clear why there is so much to cover: nudity riders, trauma awareness, gender issues, sex and sexuality liturgy, actor expectations, closed set enforcement, director desires, and those pesky rules and laws that make keep us lawyers busy. Currently there are fewer than a dozen Intimacy Coordinators in Hollywood so it’s a growth sector, and at $5,000 a week it’s not a bad wage.
Lest you think this is something only big productions need or can use, Blumenthal works with student films and shorts, making her interns available for the super low/no budget projects.
As our society learns to confront sex, sexuality, abuse of power, and tries to learn to communicate with a new language and openness around all of this, it is great that Hollywood is waking up to the need to address these issues, but is also implementing the solution to what has been an endemic problem.
In order for us to all work together we have to learn to have more uncomfortable conversations, and with the power of Hollywood to teach, lead and show the way to a better future, the role of the Intimacy Coordinator is only going to expand and be more respected and valued.