Film Making

South Africa: Films Industry Adds Intimacy Coordinators For Safety On Set

When the South African film and television industry-accepted rules for intimate content launched last month, it became a part of a global movement, marking a substantial departure from the industry's destructive and violating heritage. The protocols arose from a group effort to protect the business from the effects of Covid-19.

According to Tracy Clayton of the South African Screen Federation (Sasfed) and Sisters Working in Film and TV(Swift), the collaborative process to preserve the sector provided a blueprint for adopting intimate protocols.

The inclusion of intimacy coordinators and creating industry norms for filming intimate content is a significant and crucial step for safety on and off set in South Africa and beyond. Sara Blecher, then-chairwoman of Swift, and Kate Lush founded the company Safe Sets and the non-profit Intimacy Practitioners South Africa (IPSA) to establish intimacy protocols with the help of industry representatives Sasfed, the South African Guild of Actors (Saga), the Independent Producers' Organisation (IPO), and the Personal Managers' Association of agents.

According to Lush, an intimacy coordinator's job entails "keeping track of what the actors agree to, what the director wants, what the storytelling needs, how production will handle it, and how wardrobe will handle it, and pull all of these elements together on set to get an agreement and consent." It took a few years for intimacy coordinators to be recognised as equals with stunt coordinators, animal wranglers, and child wranglers required by law on South African film and television sets.

They're also conscious that not every producer can afford an intimacy coordinator, according to Thandi Davids, the IPO co-chair. "So, in collaboration with specialists, they've produced a 'producers' checklist,' outlining what to look for, be aware of and mindful of as they go about producing intimate scenarios on sets. It will take years from a cost perspective to ensure that all protocols are included in every single budget that producers create."

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