The Art of Making Safe Spaces: The Rise of Intimacy Coordination
When British creative sensation Michaela Coel won the 2021 BAFTA for Best Leading Actress for the HBO/BBC drama, I May Destroy You, she singled out one individual for special thanks: intimacy coordinator, Ita O’Brien. In her acceptance speech, Coel highlighted the importance of intimacy coordination for the film and television industry and thanked O’Brien ‘for making the space safe for creating physical, emotional, and professional boundaries so that we can make work about exploitation, loss of respect, about abuse of power, without being exploited or abused in the process.’ With this statement, Coel articulates the significant - and complex – relationship between the off-screen work of the intimacy coordinator and the on-screen portrayal of sex, sexual violence and themes of consent.
In this talk, Tanya Horeck discusses the initial findings of her research study (with colleague Susan Berridge) on the role of intimacy coordinators in the UK film and television industry. Exploring common themes around care and consent that emerged in their interviews with intimacy coordinators and those who have worked with them (including, for example, actors, union workers, and agents), Horeck proffers an understanding of ICs as a community of artistic practitioners who are developing a set of ethical protocols for choreographing intimacy and keeping actors safe. Situating intimacy coordination in relation to wider shifting cultural norms and attitudes around sex and consent, Horeck asks how the art of making safe spaces on film and TV sets might reframe understandings of intimacy and interpersonal relations in a post #MeToo, post COVID-19 world?
Tanya Horeck is an Associate Professor in Film, Media, & Communication at Anglia Ruskin University. She writes on crime, binge-watching, celebrity culture, social media and social justice and is the author of Public Rape: Representing Violation in Fiction and Film and Justice on Demand: True Crime in the Digital Streaming Era. Her current research projects include an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded study on online sexual risks for young people during Covid-19, and a British Academy funded study on the rise of consent culture and intimacy coordination.