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Nudity guidelines set for UK film and TV industry

02 December 2019

Directors UK, the industry body that represents film and television directors, has released guidance on directing nude and simulated sex scenes.

The guidance – the first of its kind in the UK – aims to address the power imbalance between performers and directors when filming sensitive scenes by setting out practical guidelines for directors to follow. The guidelines apply to all productions, regardless of the size of their budget.

Key aspects of the guidelines include the following:

  • Directors may engage ‘intimacy co-ordinators’ to manage the risks associated with sensitive scenes, but they must be able to manage this process themselves when the budget does not accommodate engaging such co-ordinators.
  • Directors must liaise with the producer to be aware of the clauses that performers have in their contracts which might restrict or prevent sensitive scenes from being filmed.
  • Directors should be mindful that intimacy or sexual violence can often be suggested rather than explicitly shown, and should discuss with the writer whether sensitive scenes are actually needed.
  • Directors working with casting directors must never assume a performer is willing to be filmed nude or engaging in simulated sex, even if they have done it before. Sensitive recordings taken at auditions must be stored in a GDPR-compliant way, must not be available for download and must be destroyed when the performer signs their contract.
  • Directors must be prepared to brief the performer’s agent of their intentions for, and the logistics of, sensitive scenes in order to help the agent understand and brief their client. Discussions with the agent must be ongoing, particularly if the script is still in development.
  • In advance of filming, directors must discuss sensitive scenes with the heads of the wardrobe and make-up departments and understand how they can support these scenes (for example, through barriers and prosthetics).
  • Directors must always listen to requirements communicated to them by the performers, even if these are non-contractual. They must ensure that the performer is happy after each take of a sensitive scene.

The document is strictly speaking aimed at directors, but it will impact how directors work with producers, writers, casting directors, agents, wardrobe and make-up departments, intimacy co-ordinators (if any) and of course performers, so it would be advisable for all those working in the film and television industries (rather than just directors) to familiarise themselves with its scope.

These guidelines are a helpful and practical roadmap for directors, and for productions more broadly, to ensure a professional, non-threatening environment for performers. They are a welcome tool for ensuring that performers do not feel exploited, particularly on productions without the budget to engage a dedicated intimacy co-ordinator. Smaller budget productions without such dedicated co-ordinators, in particular, will derive benefit from the guidelines and should ensure they are closely followed.

Productions should be mindful that while it is important for the director and other key crew to be familiar with the restrictions and protections in a performer’s agreement, these are no longer exhaustive factors for consideration.

Although the guidelines are non-binding in nature, they represent what is viewed as best practice by not only Directors UK but by BAFTA, the BFI, the Casting Directors’ Guild, Equity, the WGGB, and Time’s Up UK. Directors and others involved in a production may therefore struggle to attract and retain top performers if they do not follow the guidelines. We may well see performers with bargaining power choosing not to be involved with directors and other creatives that have previously demonstrated that they are willing to disregard the guidelines.

Directors and others involved in productions should be mindful that in addition to these new guidelines, there are legal requirements that may impact the filming of nude and simulated sex scenes. These include legislation governing health and safety on set, working hours and working conditions, engagement of minors and use of personal data. Legal advice should be sought to ensure the production is compliant with such requirements.

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