18 Feb Everything You Wanted to Know About Intimacy Coordinators * But Were Afraid to Ask
“Jokes about being bossy in bed are getting old for me,” laughs Intimacy Coordinator, Asha Mollier. As a pioneer in this burgeoning field, clearing up misconceptions about this unique workspace can be part of the punchline.
“Intimacy is a tricky word. Most people associate it directly with sex. But it’s more than that. It’s a deep connection between friends, romantic partners, or family. Intimacy requires vulnerability to be authentic,” Mollier continues, “That’s the Intimacy Coordinator’s sweet spot. It’s our job to create a safe environment for actors and directors, so that intimate choreography can be authentically performed.”
What is an Intimacy Coordinator, exactly? Intimacy Coordinators are a new class of Hollywood professionals trusted to co-create safe spaces for crafting scenes of sexual content. As trained mediators, the Intimacy Coordinator’s role is to honor the director’s creative vision while advocating for actors’ personal boundaries.
Demand for Intimacy Coordinators ramped up in the wake of the #metoo movement. Revelations about exploitative practices sparked the conversation about Hollywood’s lopsided power dynamics. With a light shining on predatory behavior, the industry took steps to address abuse on and off set.
Out of these concerns, a systematic approach to producing simulated intimacy was born and adopted. In 2018, SAG-AFTRA announced standards and protocols for Intimacy Coordinators, part of the union’s efforts to make the specialists’ presence an industry standard.
Intimacy Coordinators ensure that Intimacy Riders – a document that stipulates the amount of skin the actor agrees to expose and which physical acts can be simulated- is tactfully enforced. Once production begins, Intimacy Coordinators provide modesty garments, such as strapless thongs and chastity pillows. This unique toolkit creates the illusion of real intimacy while protecting actors from awkward moments.
Their implementation is a win-win for creatives in front of and behind the cameras. For actors, who could now safely perform intimate storylines—and for directors, who can tell their stories without hindering the artistic process.
A veteran of film, theatre, and fashion, Mollier experienced firsthand the lack of resources available to navigate this sensitive workspace. Actors and models were expected to improvise based on their personal experiences and fend for themselves.
In an industry where edginess and pushing boundaries were the norm, reports of misconduct weren’t always taken seriously, if voiced at all. Performers were reluctant to say “no” to invasive photography and filming for fear of termination in a highly competitive field.
Mollier brought her sensitivity to these issues in her role as Intimacy Coordinator on the set of “Ella the Ungovernable”, a play about Ella Fitzgerald’s teen years spent at an Upstate New York Reformatory School immediately preceding her big break at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.
Although there were no sexually intimate scenes in the play, the teen actors performed emotionally intense material that dealt with issues of abuse, abandonment, and a system that failed young women in crisis. Mollier drew on her training to help the actors transform into character, reduce performance anxiety, and circumvent stress from emotionally and physically demanding roles.
Before the action starts Mollier consults with actors individually, analyzing the anatomy of intimate scenes, and mapping out the choreography. This deeply personal work empowers artists to confidently express vulnerability in any intense scene, whether touch is involved or not. The safe space elicits compelling performances stories and enriches storytelling.
“It boils down to communication, empathy, and transparency” Mollier says. “Actors trust us to advocate for them. Directors trust us to honor their intentions. We honor that trust by making everyone feel safe, heard and respected.”
At the leading edge of Hollywood’s new “normal”, Intimacy Coordinators like Mollier are paving the way for an open dialogue about consent, power dynamics, and the language of movement.