'Dirty Lines'

Source: Gregg Telussa / Netflix

Joy Delima in ‘Dirty Lines’

When actor Markoesa Hamer first started working as an intimacy co-ordinator on Dutch film and TV sets five years ago, she was concerned the industry would not think there was a need for her role in the way there was in North America and the UK.

“I was worried that in Holland people would never want that,” Hamer recalled.

Now they have become common place, although older Dutch actors initially felt they had no need of intimacy coordinators, Hamer told a panel conversation at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) called ‘Intimacy’.

However, after the coordinators became available, many said to Hamer, “Where were you 15 years ago?” she recalled.

Hamer said her goal is to make intimate scenes “more interesting and more part of the story, within the boundaries of the actors.”

She works closely with the cinematographers and sound team. Either she or the first assistant director will also discuss intimate scenes with other crew members.

Markoesa Hamer

Source: IFFR/Anne Reitsma

Markoesa Hamer at IFFR

Hamer was joined in IFFR by rising Dutch actress Joy Delima, whose credits include Netflix series Dirty Lines, and director Jonnah Bron, whose sexually-explicit short film Need is premiering at the festival.

The discussion centred on how best to create safe spaces on sets.

Although Delima graduated from drama school into a world familiar with intimacy co-ordinators, she still faced daunting situations early in her career. “The first series I did, I kissed someone,” she recalled. “I had never kissed someone on screen before. I remember the director being like he [the actor] had to slam me to the wall, choke me and kiss me. I was like, OK. I remember just, like, doing it. No-one ever asked me, ‘Is this OK, does this trigger you in any way?’”

At acting school, she said, she was trained to be fearless and to be ready to try anything. “If you weren’t willing to go to the further path you could go, then you are not a good actor,” was the mindset she said she was trained in. Actors’ vulnerabilities and insecurities were not considered.

By contrast, when working on Dirty Lines, the production’s intimacy co-ordinator ensured her wishes were respected such Delima’s instance her nipples were not in shot. 

“It’s my body and I use it as I please,” Delima explained.

Her first intimate scene on Dirty Lines involved masturbation which, she said, was “even more scary” because she had to it on her own.

“The thing that really made it very hard for me in these scenes is that I felt it was very private,” she told the IFFR audience. “Everything I act is fake, I am acting, but when it came down to intimate scenes, it felt now everyone knows how I look when I orgasm or how I sound.”

She said they sometimes rehearsed orgasm sounds using animal sounds instead. “And one time I found out that a seagull sounds like a woman orgasming,” she laughed.

“I did a Q&A on my Instagram about intimate scenes because I was wondering if people had questions about how it works,” Delima added. “It turned out a lot of people thought we were really doing it.”

During the scene, Delima said she was wearing a silicon “intimate garment…like the ones that rugby people use”. The male actor had silicone padding as well. “While you’re on top of each other, you don’t feel skin to skin contact because of the silicones.”

How it works

Delima described how she works with an intimacy coordinator. “The intimacy coordinator asks the writer to write out the scene, step by step, even when a script may simply say ‘they have sex.’”

“[The coordinator] normally ask the writers or the directors, ‘please explain what you want to see and then we discuss it with the actors’,” she continud. “Before the rehearsal, there is a one-to- one meeting with the intimacy coordinator.”

Delima spoke of the reassurance that intimacy coordinators can bring actors.

“It’s really nice to have a person between you and the director because sometimes a director can feel too big to talk to, especially if you’re working with older people,” she explained. “It’s a very male -dominated business and so, as a young actress, it can sometimes feel scary [saying], ‘ I don’t want to do this,’.”