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Things to Consider When Filming Sexual Scenarios in Digital Video Productions

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/4/2011

Sex scenes and intimate situations can be difficult for actors, so it is up to you to create a safe and effective environment for them.

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    Sex on Film

    When you are trying to tell a story using film or video you are often aiming at exposing a character's personality or giving a realistic portrayal. Since sexuality, as well as other physical intimacies, are a common part of life, it serves to reason that you may want to express some of these images in your film. When dealing with personal situations like this, which often involves nudity, certain considerations must be taken to reassure your actors or subjects and still get an effective clip.

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    Limits

    The first thing that must be decided is exactly how far you would like to go, and then compare that with how far you will actually be able to. If you are planning for distribution of some kind there may be some apprehension from those companies, as well as from financiers. Though you are the artist and your decisions and opinions should come first, you still must consider how those investing money in it may feel. Likewise, you have to keep in mind that you will actually have to ask an actor to do this. If you are working on an ultra-low-budget project you may have very little to pay them and they will most likely not be professionally trained actors. Keep all this in mind while you are revising your script, and if you feel that you could not justify the activity you have on the page to the distributors or actors then you may want to curtail it slightly.

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    Work With the Actors

    When you are working on an explicitly sexual situation, whether nudity or realistic sexual activity is involved or not, make sure to sit and discuss this with the actors thoroughly ahead of time. Create a connection with each of them individually, and make sure to figure out what their limits are in general. Be aware of their own insecurities as you are moving forward. Allow the actors to become personal with each other and begin rehearsing it lightly. It is important to go over the scene several times before the cameras roll to make sure they are as comfortable as they are going to get with each other and the sequence. If it is including nudity, even non-sexual nudity, allow them to rehearse the scene many times still clothed before doing the nude rehearsal. Make sure to also do it several times as it will appear before you are recording.

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    Minimize the Crew

    During both rehearsals and recording make sure the crew is down to the absolute minimum. This means everyone but the people who absolutely have to be there must be cleared off of the set. If you can run more than one position this is best because it will raise the level of intimacy on set and allow the actors to feel comfortable enough to expose themselves physically and emotionally and take chances. Talk to the crew that will be there ahead of time and make sure that they behave with extra care and make sure they understand that it is “no big deal." Professionalism and compassion are the most important things to bring to the set.

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    Be Honest

    Never lie to the actors about what will be there. Make sure they know clearly ahead of time what they will be doing and what will end up on film. This is no time to deceive them in any way because it is highly unethical and will even leave you legally liable. Honesty is important in this situation because you are asking them to be painfully open on screen.

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    Arranging the Scene

    Choreography is important because you are getting it on film, but also allow for quite a bit of physical spontaneity. Intimacy cannot be forced and so you need to be patient and really let the actors drive the scene. If you are working with explicit sex scenes you are walking a fine line between acting and arranging an actual sexual encounter so you need to make sure that certain boundaries are set right at the beginning. If things are getting out of hand it is up to you to stop it, unless that is the type of scene you are looking for. If that is the case you must, again, inform the actors of your intentions and make sure that that kind of scene is within their limits.

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    Be Thoughtful

    It is easy to turn a romantic or powerful scene into a sexually exploitive one, so make sure that each moment is absolutely crucial to your overall piece. Be respectful of everyone involved and maintain a moral center while doing so.