No sex please, we’re social distancing

Proving that almost nothing is immune from social distancing, now even TV sex scenes face having to be put on hold.

Ita O’Brien, who advises directors on shooting displays of affection, said actors were having to find new ways to portray physical intimacy.

To maintain social distancing, they will have to show ‘intention’ instead of physical contact, she warned.

Mrs O’Brien worked on the TV version of Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People, the first episode of which was screened on BBC1 last night.

Ita O'Brien, who advises directors on shooting displays of affection, said actors were having to find new ways to portray physical intimacy.

Ita O'Brien, who advises directors on shooting displays of affection, said actors were having to find new ways to portray physical intimacy.

Ita O’Brien, who advises directors on shooting displays of affection, said actors were having to find new ways to portray physical intimacy.

The 12-part series includes several sex scenes and tells the story of Irish couple Marianne and Connell. 

Intimacy co-ordinator Mrs O’Brien, 55, who helps actors make sex scenes to ensure they are comfortable with what they are asked to do, also worked on the BBC’s Gentleman Jack and Netflix’s Sex Education.

Asked yesterday how TV firms would juggle intimacy with social distancing, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that sex scenes should be reframed as a ‘body dance’.

She added: ‘Intimacy co-ordination is about serving characters, serving storytelling. There’s so much intimacy that can be shown.

Mrs O'Brien worked on the TV version of Sally Rooney's novel Normal People, the first episode of which was screened on BBC1 last night

Mrs O'Brien worked on the TV version of Sally Rooney's novel Normal People, the first episode of which was screened on BBC1 last night

Mrs O’Brien worked on the TV version of Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People, the first episode of which was screened on BBC1 last night

‘We can still tell intimate stories but through intention… we’re really sculpting clearly the gaze, and movement towards each other that might not require actual touch, but we can still generate all that intimacy.

‘The first time Marianne and Connell make love… she’s sat on his bed, he’s on a chair, that journey to stepping towards each other – we can help sculpt that, support the actors in that intimacy without touch.’

Normal People director Lenny Abrahamson, 53, said he wanted to avoid portraying social distancing ‘unless the story is set in the current circumstances’, adding: ‘It’s more likely we will wait until restrictions are eased or find ways of testing and isolating key cast and crew so a core group don’t need to socially isolate.’ 

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