By Matthew Westwood
Actors will decide when and how they appear nude or in intimate scenes with other performers in new industry-endorsed rules governing stage and screen production in the MeToo era.
The comprehensive guidelines cover nudity, simulated sex and simulated sexual violence in filmed and live performances, and emphasise that the individual actors involved are required to give their consent.
The rules aim to banish the “casting couch” culture that has been exposed in accusations brought against disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and other high-profile figures.
Intimate scenes, the guidelines say, should be considered as part of a production’s risk assessment, along with potentially dangerous activities such as stunts or staged fights.
As defined in the guidelines, intimate scenes include simulated sexual activity between performers and depictions of sexual violence, whether actors are nude or clothed. An actor engaged in private activity such as masturbation or using a breast pump is also covered by the guidelines.
Intimate behaviour may not be sexual in nature: it can include such things as romantic caresses, handling an infant, or bathing a frail aged character.
The rules have been developed by the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance and are endorsed by industry bodies including Screen Producers Australia and the Australian Directors’ Guild.
Performers must give their “informed consent” for every occasion they are required to appear in an intimate scene, and performers can request a specialist “intimacy director” be involved in preparing for the scene. The rules cover screen and stage performances in a variety of settings, including professional productions, independent or amateur theatre, and educational institutions.
In a direct move to avoid the potential for sexual power plays in the audition process, the guidelines stipulate auditions never involve nudity or semi-nudity.
Actors must also be clothed for rehearsals of intimate scenes, except when nudity is required for dress or final camera rehearsals.
Rehearsals where nude or intimate scenes are taking place should be closed to all but essential personnel. Three people must be present, to “keep the work in the professional realm”.
In filmed productions, a performer may ask for scenes to be deleted if they are concerned about unintended exposure, and a producer must not keep out-takes that are not required for the completed film.
Michala Banas, an actress and intimacy co-ordinator, said the industry needed guidelines to ensure workplaces were safe. “Creatives across the board are relieved to know there is a pathway to make our sets safer for everyone,” she said. “I look forward to seeing them put into practice.”