The path from camera department to intimacy co-ordination may not look like a straightforward one, yet for Rufai ‘Roo’ Ajala, who went to boarding school in Ghana and attended Arts University Bournemouth before working on shorts and commercials, it was a logical — and deeply personal — next step in their career.

“In intimate scenes the camera can be very close up yet invisible, and I wanted to approach that in an ethical and empathetic way,” says Ajala, who is non-binary and uses plural pronouns. “I felt a duty of care to the actors and performers.”

Ajala trained with leading intimacy co-ordinator Yarit Dor, and has since worked in the field on BBC thriller series Better and short films including Alix Eve and Olivia Dowd’s Minutes (BFI Flare, 2022). “We are there to advise cast and crew members and support the director,” Ajala says. “But there’s also an advocacy part of our work — engaging in conversations, making people aware of those power dynamics and hopefully changing the culture.”

They have found productions are open to this change, pointing to their experience working on Channel 4 reality show Let’s Make A Love Scene, in which everyday couples re-enact cinematic sex scenes. “Even though it’s unscripted, that talent also needs safeguarding,” they note. “It was great that Fremantle was eager to support the contributors, and take a more ethical approach.”

Ajala adds that it speaks to the slow opening up of conversations around consent and mental health — unimaginable when they started out as a production assistant more than 15 years ago. “In my department of lighting, which is stereotypically masculine, expressing your emotions was difficult,” they note. “Now there’s more diversity in terms of identity, gender and expressions of sexuality.”

Alongside intimacy co-­ordinating, Ajala is focused on building a career as a cinematographer. “I like the balance I have now — working as a marginalised people from my own queer non-binary community, which informs my intimacy co-ordination and vice versa.”

Contact: Lucy Price, Loop Talent