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Ita O’Brien, Hollywood’s Top Intimacy Coordinator, Launches First-ever Degree Program in Intimacy Practice

Last Updated: July 1, 2023

Ita O’Brien, the pioneer of intimacy coordination in film, television, and theater, is launching the “world’s first degree in intimacy practice.” The two-year course, which begins this September, will architect practices on the increasing presence of intimacy coordination and build support for professionals in the role.

O’Brien’s vision of establishing consent within entertainment has been found in acclaimed projects like Normal People, The Great Watchmen, Netflix original series Sex Education, and the Michael Coelled I May Destroy You on HBO. Now, the vanguard she’s leading will join London’s Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in partnership with England’s University of East Anglia. 

L to R: Cast members Gillian Anderson, Asa Butterfield, Emma Mackey, and Ncuti Gatwa at the Season 2 premier of Netflix series “Sex Education” in London, 2020 (David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)

“Intimacy practice is a young profession, and whilst awareness of its existence has grown considerably in the last few years, deep understanding of good practice is missing,” O’Brien said via Deadline.

In response to Hollywood’s demand for choreographed sexual behavior between actors, O’Brien has continued this work through her venture Intimacy On Set. O’Brien’s services provide intimacy coordinators trained in best practices regarding risk assessment and reduction, scenecraft, and post-production debriefs, as well as advocacy training to leading drama schools.

To assist the industry’s momentum further in order to create safe atmospheres, she crafted clear outlines for sets with her Intimacy On Set Guidelines. These concrete guidelines assist with the challenge of voicing both consent and communication between actors and ensuring the safety of a cast while maintaining the throughline of a production’s creative vision.

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“To ensure we develop a profession which can proudly grow with excellence, we need to be able to train talented individuals who can navigate the both physical and emotional journey that each actor will go on, and can responsibly and safely deliver the intimate content as envisioned by the director, the storytelling and each character,” O’Brien said.

Though its implementation across Hollywood is still evolving, intimacy coordination has already changed the game on countless projects. In the newly-released original miniseries Swarm on Amazon Prime Video, actress Chloe Bailey appears in buzzy sex scene alongside co-star Damson Idris — with the help of an intimacy coordinator, the performer was able to film with the assistance of a prop to ensure her comfort. “We literally had a bouncy ball in between us, and you know, we were making a joke out of it, so it took all of the nervousness away from that,” Bailey said in a press video interview with Deadline Studios.

These specially-trained experts have increasingly become a fixture within the entertainment industry, especially in a space where Hollywood is still wrestling with sexism. Following the #MeToo movement reaching a fever pitch, women like Ita O’Brien are making real, lasting progress in addressing the epidemic of sexual misconduct and harassment that has been callously ignored on film and TV sets. Now, thanks to this new venture, a new generation of experts in this field will have even more resources to draw upon thanks to this new educational effort.

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