Published On: Thu, Aug 20th, 2020

Coronavirus: How filmmakers are being advised to practise safe sex on screen in the age of COVID-19 | Ents & Arts News

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Filmmakers have been issued with new guidance on how to practise safe sex on screen while COVID-19 restrictions are in place.

The advice on how to handle intimate encounters comes from Directors UK, the professional association for screen directors in the UK, which is calling for “innovation” when it comes to conveying sexual desire.

Characters describing what they will do instead of showing an intimate scene, video calls or phone sex, using silhouettes or shadows, and having characters re-dressing to imply sex has taken place are all among the suggestions in the Directing Nudity And Simulated Sex: Intimacy In The Time Of COVID-19 guidelines.

Casablanca
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Casablanca is highlighted as a good example of a romance without sex scenes

Several TV shows have already been following their own rules on social distancing. In the early days of the pandemic, Australian soap Neighbours was one of the first shows to get filming back up and running, with a “no kissing” rule in place.

The new UK guidelines say if there is a way of telling the story without actors having to touch each other, this should be the preferred option – with classic movies such as It Happened One Night and Casablanca highlighted as good examples.

When sex scenes involving actors touching are deemed crucial, they should be scheduled towards the end of the shoot, with extra time allowed for planning.

And when they do go ahead, performers should sanitise their hands, skin and clothing beforehand.

For kissing scenes, it is advised that actors have health checks in advance.

The guidelines suggest being “innovative” in coming up with new ways to show sex and intimacy.

“You may even find inspiration by revisiting classic films such as It Happened One Night (1934) or Casablanca (1943), some of the greatest screen romances ever made and all filmed under the Hays Code, which prohibited the depiction of sex on screen,” the document says.

“Consider what tools classic works offer for contemporary storytelling.”

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There are also suggestions for technical alternatives, such as performers taking it in turns to wear masks, visors and PPE while off camera, using motion capture and digital performances, green screen or animation, or even considering casting real-life couples who will not need to socially distance, when possible.

The Nordic Film Guide has suggested that real family members may be suitable for certain types of scene work, and the US soap The Bold And The Beautiful has already used real-life partners for scenes where hands touch faces and other body parts.

Alan Fletcher and Jackie Woodburne, aka Dr Karl and Susan Kennedy from Neighbours. Pic: FremantleMedia LTD
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Alan Fletcher and Jackie Woodburne star as Dr Karl and Susan Kennedy in Neighbours, which introduced a ‘no kissing’ rule on set early on in the pandemic. Pic: FremantleMedia LTD

“Portraying intimacy on screen should be separate to a performer’s private life,” the new UK guidelines say.

“In exceptional cases the production might want to consider using a real-life partner as a body double for limited intimate moments (particularly if the partner is a performer and is willing to step into ‘work mode’).

“However, our overall advice would be to avoid imposing on a real relationship just to get a shot; it’s always better to find a creative alternative for the scene.”



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