Directors UK issues guidance regarding directing scenes containing nudity or simulated sex

In response to the #metoo movement, the UK’s professional association for directors, Directors UK, has issued guidance in respect of directing scenes containing nudity or simulated sex. The aim of the guidance is to redress some of the historic behaviours both during casting and on set, to rebalance the power dynamic between director and performer and to support performers during a task which places them in a vulnerable position.

The guidance recommends directors take a collaborative approach to achieving these aims and addresses the role of not only the director, but other members of the production team, in ensuring a safe and supportive working environment, specifically:-

  • Directors and producers: the guidance confirms that although the producer is the “employer”, the responsibility for ensuring compliance with health and safety procedures can rest with both director and producer. The director will be responsible for actions within “their own tasks” which includes managing scenes. As such, directors must have an awareness of health and safety policies, risk assessments and control measures.
  • Directors and writers: the guidance recommends avoiding gratuitous nudity and sex scenes which are not essential to the story. Especially in respect of sexual violence, directors are urged to consider whether a graphic depiction is required or if suggested violence is enough. For scenes containing simulated sex, writers are asked to consider alternatives such as; touching of ‘inoffensive’ skin, straightening a collar or clothing, dancing, undressing or closing a bedroom door.
  • Directors and casting directors: the guidance addresses some of the concerns raised by the #metoo movement.  In respect of auditions, if a role requires simulated sex or nudity this should be addressed within the casting brief to enable performers to make informed decisions about whether the role is right for them. It is recommended that auditions and castings take place in professional spaces within working hours. The use of scenes containing sex or violence is discouraged for first additions and if it is used, no physical contact should be made and any stunt supervised by a stunt coordinator. If sex scenes are used during call backs, it is recommended that the scene is done fully clothed and planned by the performers beforehand. Regarding nudity, the guidance recommends no full nudity during an audition or call backs. If a director is required to view the performer’s body, bikinis or trunks should be worn. The guidance recommends that there is no semi-nudity in first auditions, and if required in recalls the performer should be given sufficient notice so that a chaperone can be arranged. If semi-nudity is filmed or photographed, written consent is required and the footage only be made available to essential crew. Directors should never request pre-prepared tapes depicting simulated sex or nudity from the performer.
  • Directors and performers: The guidance addresses actions to be taken by the director both during rehearsals and filming. During rehearsals the guidance recommends that specific time is given to plan and rehearse a sex scene, however there should be no nudity or semi-nudity during rehearsals, only when cameras are rolling. As with casting, rehearsals should take place in professional spaces during office hours. The guidance recommends blocking through the scene to ensure that all performers consent, this includes movement, touches and kisses. When kissing, no tongues should be used unless both the performers and director agree otherwise. Performers should not be permitted to demonstrate what they are thinking nor should a director act out what they want with a performer.

Whilst filming a scene containing nudity or simulated sex, the guidance recommends a closed set with only essential crew present. If performing simulated sex, actors must have barriers in place. Robes are mandatory for all naked or semi-naked performers and should be worn at all times when not filming, as a courtesy to both performers and crew. Once the performance is concluded the guidance recommends that the performers are debriefed to ensure that they are OK and any issues escalated to the producer.

The guidance provides specific warning for those working with teenagers and young people. Pursuant to Directive 2011/93/EU it is a criminal offence to make or distribute child pornography. A child is defined as anyone under the age of 18 years of age and pornography is defined as:-

  1. any material that visually depicts a child engaged in real or simulated sexually explicit contact;
  2. any depiction of the sexual organs of a child for primarily sexual purposes;
  3. any material that visually depicts a person appearing to be a child engaged in real or simulated sexually explicit conduct or any depiction of the sexual organs of any person appearing to be a child, for primarily sexual purposes;
  4. realistic images of a child engaged in sexually explicit conduct or realistic images of the sexual organs of child.

There are a number of provisions in place both in terms of licensing and within broadcasting codes to protect children working within the entertainment sector, specifically in respect of chaperoning and safeguarding. However the above directive will be relevant for directors working with older individuals (18+) who are depicting teenagers or when working with children in scenes which involve non explicit or implied sexual content.

It is hoped the guidance will go some way to address the historic issues which performers have brought to the public’s attention via the #metoo movement.


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Written by Louise Roden, solicitor, BLM

louise.roden@blmlaw.com

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