Sex in the time of Corona: How “The Safe Way” Forward is Transforming Love Scenes

As film and television productions ramp up after the months-long pandemic lock-down, the fate of on-screen passion faces an uncertain future. The logistics of maintaining social distance and wearing PPE pose a unique challenge to authentically depicting intimacy. Nonetheless, Hollywood is finding innovative ways to mitigate the risk of infection for actors and crew while keeping romantic storylines intact.

Some shows have opted to rewrite scripts and scale back on intimate scenes. Drawing inspiration from classics films, such as Casablanca and It Happened One Night, desire is conveyed by innuendo and suggestion. Soap operas, in which romantic interaction is integral to the plot, have chosen to responsibly film intimacy by swapping mannequins and spouses for co-stars.

However, this modern-day incarnation of the Hays Code can be navigated while adhering to strict health protocols. Under the guidance of a trained Intimacy Coordinator, working in tandem with a Certified Covid-19 Compliance officer, romantic storytelling is not only possible, it can be safely and realistically portrayed.

Intimacy Coordination, like Covid Compliance, grew organically as a response to a national crisis. The #metoo movement facilitated the conversation about consent and the power dynamic inherent in directing and acting in sexual scenes. Intimacy Coordinators were on-hand, not to sanitize, but to keep sex scenes hot and enforce actor’s personal boundaries.

Covid Compliance Officers, too, occupy an essential role. They must be present at all times to ensure that studios follow safety protocols in order to resume production. Mandated by “The Safe Way Forward”, a joint report authored by Hollywood unions, these industry guidelines govern pre-production, workplace entry, and daily activity.

Los Angeles based Actor, Playwright, and Professor Nedra Gallegos sees parallels between her work as an Intimacy Coordinator and a Covid-19 Compliance Officer. “They both require listening, paying attention to detail and keeping people safe.”

Intimacy Coordinators support Compliance Officers in creating an atmosphere of safety by addressing actor’s health concerns in this unique workspace.  The Intimacy Coordinators tool-box of thongs, shields, and cups, now supplemented by masks, shields, and gloves is part of Hollywood’s new normal.

Gallegos continues: “Covid is a highly contagious disease.  Many times we have to think outside the box. Right now a lot of couples are being cast. But the onus is still on the Intimacy Director to make sure we keep everyone as safe as possible. That might require thinking more creatively when it comes to staging intimacy.”

How will Hollywood’s new normal change the style and substance of entertainment? Gallegos added, “Hollywood is incredibly resilient and adaptable. Anyone in this industry has a strong work ethic and a passion for the art form. Covid can’t touch that. I lived in New York for 17 years from 1996 to 2013 I often say I am a naturalized New Yorker. After 9/11 we went through our dark times and sadness but ultimately we came out of it kinder to each other, more united and focused on our recovery as a city. I see the same happening with the Film Industry.”

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