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How Intimacy Coordinator Ita O’Brien Got the ‘Conversations with Friends’ Cast Comfortable On Set


a black and white front view of ita obrien with her name and date above the photo and office hours logo below

NICHOLAS DAWKES

In the monthly series of ELLE.com Time in worksWe ask people in positions of power to guide us through their first jobs, their worst jobs, and everything in between. This month, we spoke with Ita O’Brien, a pioneering intimacy coordinator who has brought her expertise to ground-breaking programs like Sex education, Normal person, I can destroy you, Mr. Jackand, most recently, Chat with friends, Appears on Hulu. O’Brien, a trained dancer and actor who received a Master of Arts in motion studies, was one of the first in the UK develop instructions for intimate scenes, creating best practices for working with any kind of nudity and sexual content. In her current role, she helps carefully choreograph the scenes on set, ensures all actors feel safe and comfortable, and serves the vision of the project’s director and writer. . “There’s a great system for it,” Alison Oliver, who plays Frances on Chat with friendstell ELLE about working with O’Brien. “We will discuss the context: What is the trajectory, and what is the quality of intimacy? And why did it happen? It is a continuation of dialogue, in a sense. Below, O’Brien discusses what it was like filming the highly anticipated showHow she first came to this job, and how she coped with the trauma that comes with the profession.

My first job

When I was a teenager, I worked with a pharmacist, rearranging the order of medicines as they ran out. At the end of the day, I would have to stack all the prescriptions and put them in order. It’s a really lovely job. I like methodical processes that let everything run smoothly — the feeling of helping people.

a designed q and a reads go to email sign up all my best career advice, have the courage to follow your heart's wishes, how i relax after a day at work stress we moved in recently, and we have the most beautiful garden to sit with a glass of Prosco with my partner looking at all the flowers, hearing the birds it's just heaven's usual lunch Me, I have the pleasure of serving lunch, but I'm a pretty big fish eater

NICHOLAS DAWKES

My worst job ever

During my dance school days, when I had no job and was in my twenties, I took a job as a clothing retailer. That’s not good for me — especially on days when it’s freezing cold and you’re sent down to the cellar to do the inventory. I didn’t last very long.

I first created a rule of intimacy

I’m doing a work of my own, where I ask performers to uncover the moves of the perpetrator and the victim. I thought, HAm I going to put in place a really good rehearsal to support my actors so they can discover this? That is the focus. Then I was talking to one of my colleagues who was leading the movement at one of the major drama schools, and she said, “Come and teach what you’re developing.” So I did that, and then for a few years, the students said, “It’s great here. Can we expect this in the industry? “So I started talking to Equity [the union for British actors] and shared the work with a group of agents at the Association of Individual Managers in June 2017. That’s when I first started putting together a guide. Then in October 2017, [Harvey] Weinstein happened and the Time’s Up movement and #MeToo movementand the industry said, “We have to do better.” I was there to say, “This is a process for working with intimate content in a professional manner that allows people to work with respect.”

Why is an intimacy coordinator needed?

It’s a body dance and so why should a director know how to do it? You don’t expect a director to know how to choreograph a tango. You don’t expect a director who knows how to stage a fight really well. Of course, you will get a stunt coordinator. Of course, you will get a choreographer. [With intimate scenes,] there is risk. If someone is nude — any degree of nudity or nudity, any degree of touching, any degree of simulated pornography — you don’t know someone who will be okay. Everyone has their own boundaries. By placing a practitioner who can put that obvious choreography into intimate scenes, you’ve got a professional structure that allows really good work to happen and for everyone to be at their peak in the game. their play, bringing their artistry to intimate scenes.

How does it feel to see this job become more popular

I have to pinch myself. It’s confusing, but I’m also grateful, and it’s so rewarding. The number of times people ask, “Why did it take so long to get this role?” It’s lovely to set the stage and work with actors who are probably really nervous, but then they say, “We had a really great day. I know I’ve done something really good, and I feel really proud.” Then the work comes out and you will see its impact on the general public. Especially things like Mr. Jack, where the gay community says: “Thank you. This represents us coming back to ourselves.” Or the weird black community that says thank you for I can destroy you. In those moments, you just go, oh. And that comes from the right process, allowing the right research to be done, allowing the article to be honored. That’s the impact it can have. It’s really humbling.

a designed q and a read my spell present during my power suit recently i discovered oska clothes they are flowing they are stylish they have room to move the scene my favorite cwf to shoot second intimate scenes where frances is exploring rhythms through to orgasm with male and female sex, i love her exploration and i'm really proud of the intimate scene secret in the last episode

NICHOLAS DAWKES

Working process on Chat with friends

First, it’s talking to Lenny [Abrahamson], director, hear his ideas and what he wants, discuss that roundtable and talk about the characters, what to say in this moment, read the script, talk about the pulse of a scene. I’m just being present and facilitating and listening, not only to what people say, but how they react in their bodies. Try to honor and cater to people’s inspirations and impulses, so that people feel they’re really telling the right story for this scene in this moment for these characters. Eg, [Frances and Nick’s] the initial encounters are from a real desire, but they are still holding back a bit. All of that is part of the conversation.

Difficulties in participating in film and television

At times it was a challenge, because while the industry has said, “We have to do better, we want change,” some people like the status quo and like the way it worked before. Some also fail to understand that the role of the intimacy coordinator is not to take over or to impose, but to serve. We serve the vision of the director, writer, cast, crew.

How I practice self-care in my career

As soon as you invite the possibility of intimate and sexual content, it comes with people’s interest and a sense in the room of what their experience might have been like in the past. Usually when I ask anyone about their experience working with intimate content, everyone has stories of feeling awkward about feeling harassed by something, sadly, abused. It’s in the room, that energy is there, and that’s part of what you’re taking care of as an intimacy coordinator. So, because of that emotional and psychological pain, I have a support person to go with when I’m having a tough day on set or something to decompress. I went to that person, and they were a foundation. I really feel like practice has helped me develop this role through reflection and repetition. It has given me an awareness of how to both support myself and the process.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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