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Podcast – Intimacy Coordinator Amy Cater

Amy Cater on the importance of intimacy coordinating and her experience working in Australian television, on projects such as Love Me, Safe Home and Bad Behaviour.

Love Me, Amy Cater

Find this episode of the Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Pocket Casts

Amy Cater says one way of thinking about the role of an intimacy coordinator, is likening it to others that exist in stage and theatre.

“You might have an accent coach or a stunt coordinator, a fight director, a cultural consultant,” she says. “There are people already doing this fine-tuning work to make these scenes authentic and we’re just another person in the same vein, but we’re focusing on the intimate content.”

In the latest episode of the Screen Australia Podcast, Cater talks about what types of projects work with intimacy coordinators, at what stage of production they are brought on, why it’s important in more contexts than people realise, and her positive experiences working on TV series including Love Me Season 1 on Binge and upcoming Bad Behaviour for Stan and Safe Home for SBS.

“An intimacy coordinator is an advocate and liaison between actors and production and their role is to oversee the logistics pertaining to intimate content… but we’re also there to do and help support the choreography of the scene itself,” she says. “So serving the story, serving the character, finding all those beautiful details and nuance of how to tell this moment in a really authentic and impactful way.”

While most people immediately associate intimacy coordination with a safety officer category, Cater says it represents more than that.

“It very much is a big part of what we do, but it’s also much more collaborative in the creative side of things,” she says, depending on the director and production. “Sometimes the big print is very vague and very open to interpretation… there’s so much that can be explored in that ‘…’ in the scripts.”

Throughout the podcast, Cater also talks about the work intimacy coordinators do that extends beyond intimate scenes and is about making actors feel safe, such as when working with young actors or scenes involving hyper-exposure, which she describes as moments “where a character will go into a heightened state of some kind… they might hyperventilate or have a panic attack.”

She says the work of an intimacy coordinator on projects involving these types of scenes is not just for the benefit of actors, but also crew.

“Crew members aren’t always given the scripts to read (and) might not know exactly what is going to be shot that day, and just allowing them to have a content warning means that they can make choices for themselves, (like) ‘can I do my best work today? Do I need to sub out or put a process in place for when I get home today to decompress?’” she says.

“At a very basic level, the bare minimum should be that it’s a safe place for actors, but also for crew and production to do their best work.”

Watch Love Me on Binge now. Stay tuned for Safe Home on SBS and Bad Behaviour on Stan in 2023.

Subscribe to Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Pocket Casts

Audio Transcript

[00:00:05] Caris Bizzaca Welcome to the Screen Australia podcast. I'm Caris Bizzaca, a journalist with Screen Australia's online publication Screen News. I'd like to firstly acknowledge the various countries you are listening in from - the unceded lands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This podcast has been created on the lands of the Gadigal people of the larger Eora Nation, and I've had the great privilege to be a visitor and be able to work on these lands during my years at Screen Australia. Always was, always will be. For this episode of the podcast, we are joined by Amy Cater, an intimacy coordinator in Australian stage and screen. Throughout the episode, Amy talks about this role and what types of projects work with intimacy coordinators, why it's important in more contexts than people realise and her experience working on various screen projects, including Love Me Season one on Binge and upcoming TV series such as Bad Behaviour for Stan and Safe Home for SBS. As always, remember, you can subscribe to the podcast through places like Spotify and iTunes where you can leave a rating and review. Any feedback, send to [email protected] and subscribe to screen Australia's industry news for all the latest funding announcements, opportunities, videos and more. Now here's intimacy coordinator Amy Cater.

[00:01:24] Caris Bizzaca Can you tell me about your role in the industry and some of the projects that you've worked on?

[00:01:29] Amy Cater Yes, so my role in the industry is an intimacy coordinator. It can sometimes be interchangeable with intimacy professional or intimacy director, but they each have a slightly different application. So intimacy coordinator is the most common phrase, but usually that's sort of specific to screen TV and film. Intimacy directors is stage, which I also do. Intimacy professional, you sometimes hear and that sort of covers everything. So I've mostly done stage and screen, a lot of TV series, some films, some stage works. I started with Cyrano, the stage play, the Virginia Gay adaptation. Some other things, the Love Me series; Bad Behaviour, which is coming out next year; a beautiful film with Hugo Weaving called The Rooster; Safe Home, an amazing series coming out through SBS; currently working on The Clearing for Disney and very close to being on set for Love Me Season 2, which is exciting.

[00:02:30] Caris Bizzaca Oh great. And The Newsreader did I see as well?

[00:02:34] Amy Cater Ah yeah, The Newsreader 2.

[00:02:35] Caris Bizzaca Season two.

[00:02:36] Amy Cater Season two. Yeah. So you can sort of depending on scheduling, be working on a couple of different things at once. So I sort of bounce between stage and screen.

[00:02:45] Caris Bizzaca Oh great. Yeah. And so what is intimacy coordinating?

[00:02:51] Amy Cater So an intimacy coordinator is basically an advocate and liaison between actors and production, and their role is to oversee the logistics pertaining to intimate content. So wardrobe, personal actor preferences. But we're also there to do and help support the choreography of the scene itself. So serving the story, serving the character, finding all those beautiful details and nuance of how to tell this moment in a really authentic and a really impactful way. So it doesn't just jut out of the screen for the sake of, like really making it a seamless, very needed moment.

[00:03:33] Caris Bizzaca Do you feel like there's any misconceptions about intimacy coordinating?

[00:03:38] Amy Cater I think we often get put just in the safety officer category, which very much is a big part of what we do, but it's also much more collaborative in the creative side of things. We adapt that input depending on the production. Some directors have a really specific, really clear vision and it'll be our role to sort of come in and under that and help serve that. And then other directors are just really open to ideas and with our sort of expertise we can find all of the little details of what we might say in this moment and what we want the audience to understand about how these people relate to each other. So yeah, the creative side of it is something that I really enjoy, as well as knowing that everyone's really comfortable and feeling proud of the work that they do because their personal preferences are being honoured.

[00:04:31] Caris Bizzaca And how long has intimacy coordinating kind of been around in the Australian industry?

[00:04:38] Amy Cater Yes, I guess not long comparatively to say the UK or the US. It's been a little bit longer over there. I would say that people have been conscious of trying to meet some of these needs for actors for a very long time. But formally the training came out through Intimacy on Set, which is a stream that I did in 2018. But there were also people training overseas with the US stream. So, you know, roughly 2017 to 2018 is when formalised, accredited, mentored, trained intimacy professionals were happening in Australia.

[00:05:13] Caris Bizzaca And what kind of drew you to this area?

[00:05:17] Amy Cater Do you want the short answer or the long answer?

[00:05:20] Caris Bizzaca Well it's a podcast, so you can go the long answer. (laughter)

[00:05:21] Amy Cater Okay. So I've worked with intimacy, sexuality, consent, embodied performative sexuality for close to 20 years. I'm 37 now. And tt's always been the thing that draws me most. So I started I started out in performing arts, so, you know, I trained in drama school, thought I was going to be in front of a camera as an actor. But I quickly realised I kind of like being the support person or the helper beside groups of people chasing their own vision for something. So I started in arts and drama, and then I got offered a position as a photographer of erotica, which was just like 'great. I get to learn this whole new on the job skill set of photography whilst exploring creative expressions of sexuality'. And the company that I worked for did it in such a way that I was happy with. The content that we were producing was content I was happy with and that took me overseas. But I just kept sort of realising that, you know, people would often put themselves in sexual, performative situations without first checking in with themselves, whether it was like they needed the money etc. So I was really interested in the consent side of things and body awareness. So I did a bunch of qualifications. I did psychosomatic therapy, sexlogical body work and somatic sex education, and that took me into client work, holding spaces for clients who wanted to understand their body, understand their needs and how to ask for it. You know, it allowed me to hold space for people with traumatic backgrounds, people trying to understand their sexual orientation. And that was like a big part of my work is holding space for queer folk, understanding their potentially changing bodies through transitions and offering sort of exploration spaces for people who might jump online and do a research into sexual embodiment workshops and it be very binary space. So yeah, that was part of my work for a long time, but I always stayed connected to performance and performance art. I was cabaret performer in sort of drag world for a long time, and then I was in and out of the adult sex work industry in different capacities holding space for clients. And I think it's just so fascinating, like the sheer spectrum of human sexuality and what people choose to do with their bodies or not choose to do with their bodies and why that is. Like there's just no one same person. And so I am passionate about telling those stories and showcasing differences and not just doing the same tropes on stage and screen and just showing how complex and lovely we are. So when IC work came out to Australia, it just sort of felt like a really beautiful nexus of all of the work that I'd done. It allowed me to tap back into performing arts and storytelling, and then I was just suddenly in a room with these amazing skilled creatives from direction background and movement background and acting background. And as is the case with lots of workshops, you go around the circle and introduce yourself and I could feel it coming closer and closer to me going, 'okay, it's now or never, do I actually say who I am and what my background is because it's very clear that I've come to this from a very different pathway' and I just bit the bullet and did and I haven't looked back because you're just reminded again that your points of difference, your lived experience, what you can authentically bring to your work is what's going to set you up and potentially be the thing that a person connects to in a way that they might not have otherwise. So, yeah, that's the thing I respect about ICs the most is that we all have our different entry into it and we all have our unique skill set. And it's a really wonderful group of people to be a part of. I've found it to be very supportive, and building people up - probably because there's not many of us to be honest and it's been a kind of a new thing, but we sort of build it each other up and it's lovely.

[00:09:27] Caris Bizzaca Also, you kind of all know each other within the industry?

[00:09:30] Amy Cater Yeah, we have our little cohorts and our group chats and just keeping everybody in the know and it's great - if you're not available for something, you can handball that to someone. Or sometimes you go, 'I'm not the right person for this. I think this person with their skill set could better serve their story'. So yeah, we have those chats all the time. 

[00:09:50] Caris Bizzaca And so you mentioned kind of that you work in stage and screen, would that be the kind of main areas that would have intimacy coordinating? Like what kind of projects would you see intimacy coordinators working on? Like web series? Like what kinds of projects?

[00:10:09] Amy Cater Yeah, it can sort of be applied to anything that discusses or tries to depict anything with nude content, sexual stimulation content. But it's not just that - sometimes you might have young actors who are doing their first kiss either ever in life or on screen. And so you might be brought in for that sort of thing. And the medium application for those can be anything. It can be web series, it could be stage plays, short films. You know, I'm even hearing of dance companies bringing in an IC. Operas. It's becoming widespread in how we are involved.

[00:10:49] Caris Bizzaca And why do you personally think that this role is important on particularly - you know, this being a Screen Australia podcast - in the screen industry?

[00:11:00] Amy Cater I mean, at a very basic level, the bare minimum should be that it's a safe place for for actors, but for also for crew and production to do their best work. And I think that's a great part of the conversation at the moment is crew members who aren't always given the scripts to read might not know exactly what's going to be shot that day, and just allowing them to have a bit of a content warning means that they can make choices for themselves: 'Can I do my best work today? Do I need to sub out or do I need to put a process in place for when I get home later today to decompress?' You know, there's some pretty intense stuff that we're putting to screen these days. And so it's nice just to have everybody's wellbeing in mind. So we, you know, through our script assessment, can have everybody in our mind about who we might need to talk to, to flag different parts of the content and get ahead of the game in creating a really good process from the beginning. We can also be that neutral person to have some of the sticky, funny, awkward conversations between departments. You know, a director might not have the time to phrase something in a delicate way because they've got a million things on their mind and they have to think ten steps ahead at all times so we can go off, have a little side conversation, make sure that the actors are equipped and prepared, and then come back for another take. And, you know, we can either give all of the prep notes to the director, and then they take all those considerations on and hold the scene, or we can be the voice of the director by giving notes to the actors between takes. Like the feedback that I've been given from many directors now, is it sort of frees them up to focus on the overarching vision whilst knowing that all of the little details have been taken care of and that can be the case for a lot of departments, is just taking some of that extra load off them. People like Stand By Costumes who have often held some of these conversations beautifully and amazingly, but it's not necessarily the stuff that they want to talk about. It might not be their area of expertise. So it's formalising a system for all these conversations to be had so everyone can just focus on the craft that they're really amazing at. The first TV series that I worked on from start to finish was Love Me. The interesting part of Love Me was that we shot it in one of the hardest lockdowns in Melbourne during August I think-

[00:13:32] Caris Bizzaca What is time.

[00:13:33] Amy Cater Yeah, let's not go back there. But that was an amazing experience because we were at a time where the whole world was told not to touch. And we were exploring these stories of people where it was all about their relationships and old relationships changing and new relationships forming and the physicality of all of that. And for me, it was, you know, a really beautiful place to put that very natural human pondering. It was like a creative outlet whilst it wasn't allowed in in our personal lives. But yeah, that was an amazing journey for me as an IC because Emma Freeman, the director - for anyone that's worked with Emma, she's just so buoyant and positive and has this ability to stay really true to her vision for something whilst allowing space for actors to explore. And I just got really, really lucky for that to be one of my early projects because she was so generous. You know, she trusts her collaborative creatives. She will tweak things if it's not working. But she gave me a lot of space to work with the actors to just deep dive into character and working with amazing, very, very talented, younger, newer actors to really established very, very expert actors like Hugo Weaving and Heather Mitchell. But there being such a grounded, equal conversation approach from all of them. It just felt like you're talking with old friends and we came up with some really lovely, sweet moments for these characters that weren't necessarily in the big print of the script, but they developed out of having that time, having those conversations early and understanding who they wanted these people to be and how they wanted to portray them. And, you know, it was amazing, for instance, seeing... I'm just so I'm so used to seeing, you know, and I put it in quotations, "older" whatever that means, "older" characters having a moment of intimacy, and they'll start a kiss and then one will reach over to the bedside light and turn it out. And there's a hard cut, it's just black out and the next morning they're just like hugging by the pillow. And of course, that is a bookend of what happens. But why aren't we showing diversity and intimacy and sexuality and bodies and the fact that the writers and producers allowed space for all bodies to be onscreen. And for us to involve themes of grief and heartbreak within falling in love. And god it was, it was such a humbling and satisfying project to work on.

[00:16:34] Caris Bizzaca And so then like in practise, like how I was hoping that we could talk through like how it actually would work. Like what point are you coming onto a project? What are some of those early conversations? Things like that.

[00:16:50] Amy Cater So every production is different depending on how experienced they are with working with ICs. You might get a call the day before going, 'Oh my God, we've got this intimate scene tomorrow. Are you free? Can you come in?' If I am, I will. But my recommendation is to have these conversations as early as you can. So the idea is bringing in an IC into the fold in pre-production when scripts are being written and handed out, when actors are starting to have conversations around character and their preferences and what they're happy to bring to the table as far as their actor body. Having that time before the cameras start rolling will save you so much time on set and will take away so much of the risk factor of working with intimate or hyper exposure content. So I would say that the projects that I have felt most excited about or most proud of have been the ones where production brings me in very early. I'll do a script assessment. I'll have my one on one chats with the actors. I'll have pairing sessions with the actors either in a rehearsal space, in person or over Zoom. Sometimes people are coming in from everywhere. You have your conversation with the director, understanding exactly what they would love from the scene. And then, you know, you start to find the overlaps. You start to find overlaps of what parts of the actor body a person is happy using what the director would like from this scene and you as a creative, as an IC, it's your job to either have those conversations in a really transparent way with everybody involved or hold people's confidences and find the linkage whilst respecting those boundaries. And that's a part of what we do sometimes is create a really neutral, safe space for people to share things that they don't want production to know. That they don't want the director to know. And it just allows a structure where people feel really seen and held, but that we can all just create a really important moment that doesn't then get questions afterwards, that doesn't have the actor taking stuff home where they're second guessing themselves and regretting. And so it's investing early to save time during and later, hopefully. And that's not to say that things don't come up, but there's also putting into place a structure where we know what to do if things come up and we know how to tweak them and we're always malleable, we can always adjust. And making that an okay thing, like making permissions for no's to come up and knowing that we can find a new way to do something.

[00:19:37] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, I feel like from the way that you're talking about it, it creates like a complexity of character on screen, but there's been no, like, personal sacrifice by the people who have been creating that on screen. It's kind of like you know the end product is great, but also the making of it was a really good process at the same time.

[00:20:02] Amy Cater Yeah, I think there's been a feeling with actors that you sort of have to suffer for your art. And I'm sure that at different times and I've been in front of the camera and I've been in front of the camera using my body, you know, in really vulnerable, intimate ways. But there's a difference between going to an emotional place through the skill set of your craft, and sacrificing and surrendering something that you weren't prepared to surrender and you later feel unsure about. So it's trying to reduce as many of those questions as possible so that people have more space to play and more space to explore the character and the character development. Because their actor body has first been held and held respectfully. And I guess that's yeah, that's a lot of the feedback is actors will say to me, 'I was able to go further in the emotional expression of this character because I knew the logistics and the physicality of it was all set and we weren't going to stray from that. So I could actually open myself up even more.' And that's that's a beautiful thing to hear from actors. And specific projects that I've worked on where that has worked really well, you know, Bad Behaviour coming out next year.

[00:21:26] Caris Bizzaca On Stan.

[00:21:28] Amy Cater On Stan. So we invested so much amazing time, a conversation between the director and the actors, fleshing out who these people were, how they likely to respond to these moments, what in the environment might change that? And then, you know, having specific rehearsal time, doing the shaping of the scene, doing the physical blocking. What does this gesture tell us in this moment? Where's the power within this dynamic? Does that power shift? And for that story, power play is a huge, huge part of it. So the fact that Corrie Chen the director and production was so generous with time and saw the value in that time was a real gift. And the actors involved at different times, they're playing different ages, there's a bit of an age jump in this story: to respectfully tell stories, intimate stories of younger people and then how that shapes who they are as young adults, how that changes over time. What we learn of people, you know, I really geek out on that stuff so much. So yeah, it's a really nice dynamic when you can be behind the monitor with a director and bounce little nuanced suggestions between each other and work closely with the actors to enhance something just that little bit more. 'Remember how we talked about wanting to deliver this? I reckon we could do that by holding this beat in this way or enhancing the breath in this way.' And so that's a huge part of what we can bring to the table is is all of the little extras.

[00:23:06] Caris Bizzaca Well, it's kind of what you were saying before we you were saying it's not it's not just about safety. Safety is part of it, but it's that yeah, collaborative kind of creative side of it, you know, because it's you talking about performance and telling stories and complex characters.

[00:23:23] Amy Cater Yeah. And it's common in stage and theatre, you might have an accent coach or a stunt coordinator or a fight director, a cultural consultant. There are people already doing this sort of fine tuning work to make these scenes authentic, and we're just another person in the same vein. But we're focusing on the intimate content and yes, sometimes in a script, it'll be 'and they kiss...'. And actors might say, 'Oh, yeah, we're really comfortable. It's just a kiss.' And it can be just light and fleeting. But there can also be just real detail told in that just kiss.

[00:24:06] Caris Bizzaca In one word, in a script, it can actually-

[00:24:08] Amy Cater Yeah. And sometimes the big print is very vague and very open to interpretation, whether it's 'they kiss...' or 'then they make love...'. How do they make love? You know, who's leading this? How does the other person feel about this? Are they meeting in a really equal synced way? What might we understand about how they were brought up and how they were taught about sex? There's just so much that can be explored in that 'dot dot dot' in the scripts. So that's part of it that I enjoy the most I reckon.

[00:24:45] Caris Bizzaca Mm hmm. Yeah. And so what would be some of the other processes involved on set?

[00:24:52] Amy Cater So one really common thing that we do is hold the safe entry and exit of a scene for actors. So they're obviously expected to and often go to really intense places depending on the content. And there needs to be a process where they can separate out, you know, their experience as an actor, who they are as a person from the character that they've just really convincingly embodied. So an example of that could be, you know, you might have a scene where sexual violence occurs. Immediately we think, 'oh, we have to protect the person that is the the victim of that moment'. But it's equally the case for the person who is acting as the perpetrator in that moment for them to get a real separation from, embodying someone that is really scary: that in the craft they can convincingly portray that person can be a really risky and often, you know, alarming experience for an actor to go through. So there's coming out exercises where we deregulate the nervous system, where we create a physical and mental separation from the character. And then we, depending on the time and what they next have to go into, if it's appropriate, bringing lightness back into the space and allowing them to engage again as actors who have nothing to do with these stories, who have nothing to do with these characters. So, you know, after all of the down regulating breathing and getting them settled again, getting the adrenaline out of their body, you know have them share something light and fun and joyful from their life. Like, for me, it's like my dog will roll on her back and pretend she's dead to get affection. And immediately that brings in warmth and and lightness into the body where you start to see who this person is on a day to day. And then we're just back in the room and in this reality.

[00:26:54] Caris Bizzaca And you we get that with all kinds of different projects because I'm thinking like, you know, I've chatted to people that have done like horror movies before and that kind of like heightened fear response that you have to get to. But like you said, if you're the perpetrator in a film like that, it can also be - so could be drama or genre or there's loads of different types of projects there.

[00:27:17] Amy Cater Yeah, absolutely. And you know, often actors will have a really good go-to process. So if they're a solo person reacting to the environment, they might have one that they go through after a scene. But when it's two characters engaging in each other in something, you know, particularly horrifying, it's nice to hold that for them so that it's like a full stop at the end of the scene where they can get back to, you know, just being-

[00:27:45] Caris Bizzaca Being themselves.

[00:27:46] Amy Cater Being themselves and they don't have to take it home and bleed it into the next scene or take it home and that catharsis and decompression happen in their family time or with their partner or with themselves just solo. And, especially when you do shows where you might be working with children, interacting with intense scenes, where adults are being scary for a moment: kids have an amazing ability to play make believe and some kids are really great at just jumping in and out of a scene because they know it's all sort of pretend, but you get sort of young adult actors who are starting to engage in fear responses and trauma responses as a character for the first time, and they don't always get taught exit strategies through drama schools. You know, it's becoming a little bit more common, but setting them up early to have anxiety-lessening processes is I think it's just a really good tool. It's a nice little ritual - it doesn't have to be overdone, it's just addressing what actually physically goes on in the body and having somewhere for it to go.

[00:28:57] Caris Bizzaca and you talked about the actor body a couple of times and as someone who's unaware of the industry jargon in the same way, can you explain when you say 'actor body', what are you referring to?

[00:29:11] Amy Cater So actors are embodying characters. So they are trying to formulate physical characteristics, nuanced ways of moving their body or connecting with other people. That's the character: they serve the story. But how they go about that, it can be broad. So when I ask, 'what of your actor body are you comfortable bringing to the table?' They might be really happy to, you know, go on a nude beach on the weekend and sun themselves and have a skinny dip in the ocean, but in their workplace, they might not want to bring that part of their willingness to the table. So it's understanding what you as an actor, are comfortable bringing to this scene or bringing to this show in general. So it's referring to things like nudity wavers, nudity riders is what it's called sometimes. What are you happy for us to capture on screen? What are you happy to physically engage in a touch moment with another actor. So it could be preferences. Like, 'I'm happy to be topless, but I don't want anything below the waist shown in a nude way. I'm happy for the character to be perceived as nude in this moment', but we would then imply the nudity by framing the moment in a certain way or having modesty coverings. So it's finding the overlaps between what an actor is comfortable using from their actor body and then creatively framing it in a way that those preferences are honoured. But we still serve the story.

[00:30:58] Caris Bizzaca And when you saying like some actors will be like, 'oh, yes, you know, it's just a kiss'. I have read some things where some actors have said that they're not really a fan of intimacy coordinating because they feel like it takes away from the spontaneity of a scene. What your kind of response to something like that?

[00:31:27] Amy Cater Well, I mean, to what I was saying before, where every part of the acting process already has consultants. I don't see there being any difference to what we're trying for when we work with actors. The most common parallel is with like a stunt coordinator and you wouldn't give actors onscreen weapons and say, 'just sort of go for it'. It's always broken down. And the beats of it and the shapes of it are rehearsed.

[00:31:55] Caris Bizzaca Yeah when they have "and then they fight..."

[00:31:57] Amy Cater Yeah, exactly.

[00:31:59] Caris Bizzaca There's a lot going on there.

[00:32:00] Amy Cater Exactly. So yeah, I'd say, you can frame it in exactly the same way. People who are like, 'I just like the freedom to explore intimate scenes.' My question to them would be, 'are you serving character, are you serving a story? Or are you tapping into your own actor body defaults when doing that scene?' Because we certainly don't want to see the actor in the scene and the co-actor doesn't want to feel the actor's preferences in that moment. So it's great if you're really comfortable in your body. It's awesome if you feel really comfortable doing sex scenes, but as a respect to the whole industry, as a respect to young folk coming up through the ranks of learning acting craft, I would say set an example. Set an example that you're happy to give space for this process, to go through a structure that allows conversation, that allows a welcoming of changing preference so that your actor body is sustainable, so that young folk come through knowing that their voice is valuable, their voice is going to be respected, and that we are not going to sacrifice who they are to just try and get a story. They are more important than the story and we can do both. They're not mutually exclusive. So yeah, I would say to those people, just give space for it, for everybody to feel comfortable, because not everyone does feel super vibed and happy to do a kissing or a sex scene. Some people are mortified and nervous. There's space for it all. There's space for all those feelings because we will make it okay.

[00:33:40] Caris Bizzaca And I've also heard of actors, I've read articles and things with actors who have said they really value having intimacy coordinators there because prior to this being something that was formalised, it was up to the actors as individuals to just discuss it amongst themselves before. But you don't know the people that you're going to be acting with, whether they want to be the type of person that talks it out before. So you could get lucky and have someone that is happy to have that chat, but you might not. And so by actually having the formal process in place, it means that everyone gets to kind of have those conversations before.

[00:34:27] Amy Cater Yeah, absolutely. And it kind of just gives them privacy to who you are as a sexual being outside of the workspace. You might not want to disclose anything about your personal self and when you're sort of just left to chat it out, that can be a risk. Like 'what would you do in this situation?' Because they don't necessarily have the same language that we use to frame things in a way that doesn't make it about the personal actor. So it's always framing that, you know talking about the characters in third person. I think 'they' would do this at this time because this is the scene coming before that rather than going, 'Oh, if I was in that situation, I'd probably just push her up against the wall.' Those sort of things aren't appropriate at work. So yeah, it's helping support that along, through a lens that is all about character.

[00:35:19] Caris Bizzaca Um, the other example that I've kind of come across before or I've heard of from some international actors, was not that they were against having an intimacy coordinator on set or anything, but that they were more like taken aback when they would just like but it's just a kissing scene - like I've done this many times before, if they've had a long career. Yeah. I wonder when you were first coming across this area in the industry, was there any kind of push back or like adjustment period maybe, as people were kind of like, 'well, what, what is this? We've always done it this way.'

[00:35:56] Amy Cater Yeah, I mean, absolutely. There's I think there's always an adjustment when things have been a certain way for for so long. You know, you're going to have mixed feelings. You're going to have people who have preconceived ideas about what that means. And they can sort of take that personally sometimes. Like there's a judgement in the room of how they might have gone about things beforehand, but that's certainly not the case. It's just like a general trying to raise the standard of care within the industry and we respect that everybody is an expert in their field and probably have some really amazing processes and ways of doing things. But it's trying to establish a shared language and a shared page that everybody can work from because sometimes things will happen through no malice, through no intention to harm somebody. But just because we talk in different languages and there's been a misinterpretation of something. So if I feel uncertainty in the room, I just sort of name it and I'll ask questions. Like 'Have you worked with the intimacy coordinator before? Do you have any concerns, curiosities about the process? What's your usual way of working so that I can try and honour that we're not trying to come in and override people completely. Let's work together. Let's find a way that everybody is happy.' I think we all feel valued when we're seen and heard. So ICs can respect you as an expert in your field, but we can allow space for that creative agency whilst continuing to have the conversations around consent. And I think at the end of the day we're just after the same thing. We're after an impactful scene. So I'll often talk about character as a common interest with an actor. You know, I'll start to ask questions about what they want to tell about their character. Once I understand that, I'll start to get shapes in my head about what physicality can tell that story. And then we'll come back to the logistics of 'okay with all of that in mind. What are you happy to bring to the table?' But they've had that chance to, you know, speak to the thing that they know best, which is acting, which is character building. And I love that. I love hearing an actor's ideas. And I try not to take it personally if there's apprehension in the room. Just try and find the language that can be shared.

[00:38:22] Caris Bizzaca So there would be some projects that wouldn't have the time or budget for things like rehearsal, like can you still have an intimacy coordinator if you don't have that time? And yeah, what kind of what kind of advice would you have for those projects?

[00:38:40] Amy Cater I would say an intimacy coordinator being involved in any capacity is probably better - almost definitely better - than none at all. So, you know, there's the ideal which we share with the production. You know, if we've gotten the call really last minute, we would just lay that out: 'This is usually how we work, and this usually gets the best results'. Whether it's because it's been an afterthought or financially, they don't have money to cover that: there's always a way. Yeah, there's always a way. So whether it's like a two hour consultant conversation, whether it's referring them on to someone who might still be under mentorship or in training, who's trying to accrue their on-set hours, where it's not necessarily about the full rate at that time. Yeah, we can make it work. I would say, you know, don't have as a footnote in your budget or list of priorities. Start making it more of a priority. Actors will appreciate that. But yeah, of course, you know, I'll get a call from a short film or a student group and if it's content that I'm passionate about. You know, I've done flexible hours, flexible rates, because we've all had to start from somewhere. We've all had student films trying to be made on the smell of an oily rag. So I like to try and make space in my schedule for all of it. But if I don't have time, I'll try and refer them on to somebody that can. But yeah, I think, you know, whether it's through the universities, independent drama organisations or schools, having this as a needed part of production, in the same way that you would have a stage manager or a first AD or a camera operator - have it be part of the conversation, so you normalise it more and more.

[00:40:29] Caris Bizzaca And so just in terms of advice, generally, do you have any advice, one, for directors and, two, for actors when it comes to approaching intimate scenes?

[00:40:43] Amy Cater Yeah, I'd say, I mentioned it earlier, but have the conversations early. There's a process to build the actor body up to the day of an intimate scene, so having things sprung last minute can really jolt someone out of their preparation, allowing the actors to know what's expected. But welcoming a space for it to be a two way conversation. So it's not just what you're putting on the actor, but what is the actor happy to bring? Framing it always through character is really, really important. So we're always honouring the story and we're always honouring the character preference. And I would say, yes, when people think about IC work, they think of sex scenes. But being conscious that there's content that we work on that spreads outside of just a sex scene or just a nude scene. Hyper exposure is also something that we try and talk to productions about being really important to discuss. So hyper exposure are scenes where a character will go into a heightened state of some kind, like their nervous system escalates, they've been exposed to a happening that is either distressing or can send their body and their response into an altered state, so where they might hyperventilate or have a panic attack. Things like violent acts or I'm seeing a deceased body, having something physically intense happening to them. So I've recently worked on a show called Safe Home, and it's about family violence. So speaking back to when is a good time to engage an IC: they were incredible. Emelyne Palmer and Imogen Banks very early brought me on to do a script read, like 'what do we need to be mindful of? We are aware of the statistics. We want everybody to be safe. We want the cast and the crew to be safe working on these stories.' So, you know, sending out a memo to the crew saying, 'we know you might not be reading the scripts, you might not get the scripts. Please note that on these dates we are covering these specific scenes with this kind of action. Can you do your best work that day? We are here to support you in building a process so that reducing harm an impact as best as possible.' Of course, we're all going to have, you know, personal responses to the art that we make that's sort of part of making. But is there a process where someone can speak up if they're just having a bit of a rough time? So directors being aware that, yes, they have every detail of the story, but not everybody that comes into contact with that content has the same level of preparation and ability to compartmentalise and frame it as a 'okay, this is scene one slash five, and then we jump to this'. Directors have an amazing ability to fragment things and piece it together and hold the whole story. But a crew person coming on to set one day, you know, suddenly looking down the lens at this really intense scene that they didn't know was coming up - we need to build practise around that sort of stuff as well. So the question was advice for directors and actors when working on intimate content. It's advice to productions as well to to make sure that everybody who's in contact with that content, particularly when it's of a distressing or violent nature, that everybody has opportunity to build a conversation, a safe process around that. And, you know, in speaking to the director, Stevie Cruz Martin and the actors that went through Safe Home, you know, there was processes that we put in place that they'd never had access to in previous works, that they were forever grateful and will then continue on. Yeah, so it's great to hear new processes be put in place. I could talk about it for days. You don't want to hear me talk for days, but I'm really, really grateful to you Caris to open up this space to talk about IC in a way that's not just about the one-on-one consent of actors. It's it's broader than that.

[00:45:06] Caris Bizzaca Well, we'll leave it there. But thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today and talking to us all about intimacy coordinating.

[00:45:14] Amy Cater Thank you. Thank you, Caris.

[00:45:19] Caris Bizzaca That was Amy Cater. And remember, you can catch Love Me Season one on Binge Now and keep an eye out for some of the other projects Amy mentioned - safe Home on SBS and Bad Behaviour on Stan - which is set to air in 2023. If you're enjoying this podcast, you can subscribe to it through places like Spotify and iTunes and you can also subscribe to the fortnightly Screen Australia newsletter to keep up to date with new initiatives, opportunities, videos, articles and more. Thanks for listening.