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Intimacy coordinators: useful or essential?


During the first ANICA Talk of 2024, professionals were given the opportunity to reflect upon the potential of this new figure in the workplace

Intimacy coordinators: useful or essential?
(l-r) Piera Detassis, Francesco Vedovati, Vittoria Puccini, Luisa Lazzaro, Edoardo De Angelis and Chiara d'Alfonso during the panel (© ANICA)

Tuesday 16 January saw the year’s first ANICA Talk unfold, entitled “Intimacy Coordinators in Action”, which looked to better acquaint sector professionals with the role of ICs and to reflect upon the potential of this emerging figure within the Italian audiovisual industry.

Moderated by the president and artistic director of the Italian Film Academy Piera Detassis, and held in ANICA’s Roman headquarters, the event was attended by Netflix Italy’s Head of Production Chiara d’Alfonso, director Edoardo De Angelis, actress and President of the Italian National Union of Theatre and Audiovisual Actors Vittoria Puccini, casting director Francesco Vedovati and intimacy coordinator Luisa Lazzaro (one of the first in Italy to receive professional certification, obtained abroad).

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Two courses have recently started training Italian professionals in this role: one organised by Intimacy Coordination Italy in collaboration with Amazon Prime Video; the other by ANICA Academy ETS itself, which kicked off on 29 September with Sky Italy as a sponsor and partner, and with backing from Sky Studios and Netflix.

After some opening acknowledgements delivered by ANICA president Francesco Rutelli, general secretary Francesca Medolago Albani and the director of ANICA Academy ETS Sergio del Prete, Detassis asked Lazzaro to explain where the need to have an intimacy coordinator on set originated, refencing the five “pillars” of the profession: “context, consent, communication, choreography and resolution.”

Lazzaro stressed how the role of the IC is emerging in response to a need for “greater communication and transparency” so as to avoid “surprises” for actors when they arrive on set, which is achieved by way of this figure who starts out by reading the screenplay and bases most of their work on anticipating and mitigating risky situations.

During his address, Vedovati described the presence of ICs as “incredibly reassuring” and spoke about the implementation of casting protocols which are intended to create an effective system for the protection and defence of actors. Ultimately, they’re guidelines aimed at providing maximum transparency from the outset over what’s going to be asked of them during their first audition, during successive callbacks and, ultimately, while they’re on set.

Puccini confirmed how the presence of ICs has been expressly mentioned within the recently signed collective contract for audiovisual actors, describing it as a significant victory for the sector: “This is a role which is important to all of us. We need to think about those young actresses and young actors who aren’t as confident as others on set, as well as those with longer-established, successful careers. This kind of work can involve uncomfortable and embarrassing situations which can leave actors feeling blocked and unable to let themselves go, in the positive sense of the expression: or rather, unable to do what’s required of the character by the screenplay.”

De Angelis subsequently took to the floor: “Without a doubt, everything revolves around actresses and actors on set. We do our best to make sure people who have to express themselves through their bodies and facial expressions are given the best possible conditions for this to happen. Our relationship is based on a form of respect, a value which we always try to maintain. But all of us do it empirically. We don’t have any protocols yet, although the law is already a point of reference for us. In this sense, protocols for casting are most welcome.”

De Angelis recognised the usefulness of the presence of ICs on set, not only for scenes of a sexual nature but also for those involving onerous emotional content. He further remarked upon the importance of establishing clear rules setting out their relationships with directors and actors, so as to create a virtuous work environment.

D’Alfonso placed the emphasis on ICs as “facilitators”, also comparing them to stunt coordinators whose presence is essential when shooting action scenes. Refuting that such roles feel like an imposition, d’Alfonso spoke of how platforms had reached a point where it had become necessary to have these roles and to raise awareness of them in Italy, following her experience of ICs overseas.

Lazzaro previously worked on the movie Supersex, which she became involved in once production was already underway and which featured actors and non-professionals of all ages and levels of experience. She also hinted at her day-long experience on another set, involving a semi-naked scene shot outside: “My presence helped to shine a light on a variety of factors which might easily have been forgotten. The need to be wary of other people’s gaze, to be careful that they didn’t intrude on the scene and to make sure that it was a genuinely intimate moment, restricted to people whose presence was strictly necessary at that point in time, was essential. [..] My presence, and communication of how delicate the scene was, had a notable impact on everyone, like a domino effect. Not only did the actress feel supported while shooting a scene which left her vulnerable, because it was pretty intense, it also created a sense of harmony among the wider team.”

The event closed with a Q&A session during which other subjects were debated, including the need to make sure the imbalanced relationship between the production team and the actors doesn’t make the latter afraid to request the presence of (and additional expenditure on) an IC, and the need for someone to oversee the psychophysical wellbeing of the wider on-set team, which is already a reality in the Anglo-Saxon context where you find “wellbeing facilitators”.

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(Translated from Italian)

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