Known for her stellar work in the film industry, award-winning film producer and director, Sara Blecher has recently been appointed as South Africa’s first and only "intimacy co-ordinator" by SA’s leading artist and management agency Talent-ETC.
The fairly new profession in the entertainment industry will see Blecher ensure the well-being of actors in theatre, film and TV, who participate in sex scenes or other intimate scenes.
“An intimacy co-ordinator is also someone who works closely with the director and the actors to help choreograph the scene to best serve the characters and the story. Intimacy co-ordinators are quite similar to stunt co-ordinators in that they work with the directors on scenes to ensure the scenes are safe for all the participants and that the simulated action is made to look as convincing and real as possible,” said Blecher.
Blecher’s production company, Real Eyes Films have been making documentaries, feature films and television drama series. Her first feature film "Otelo Burning" won over 17 international awards and was named by CNN as one of the top 10 African Films of the Decade. And in 2016, Blecher won the SAFTA Best Director Award for her film "Dis Ek Anna".
Blecher, who founded the NGO SWIFT (Sisters Working in Film and Television) said it made her aware of safety issues for women working in the industry.
“Women were experiencing huge amounts of harassment with no means of recourse. Then I was introduced to the concept of intimacy co-ordinators when I attended a talk and demonstration at the Berlin Film Festival. This was a real game changer. I realised for the first time that intimacy scenes should be dealt with as simulated action similar to the way stunt scenes were staged,” she said.
This profession has started simultaneously in the UK, US and Australia by different women, all of whom are working towards improving the way intimacy scenes are handled in theatre productions and on screen.
For now, Blecher is the only trained intimacy co-ordinator in South Africa, however Kate Lush, also an intimacy co-ordinator from London, will join Bletcher in 2020.
Asked if South African audiences have become more accepting of on-screen nudity and sex scenes, Bletcher said it’s certainly becoming less taboo.
“It’s less taboo than India or other African countries like Nigeria where we hardly see on-screen kissing. But we are still a deeply conservative country where the boundaries don’t centre around nudity or sex as much as they do around religion and culture. South African audiences tend to be far more tolerant of sex than they are, for example of intimate scenes associated with cultural rituals; or religious iconography.
"A recent outcry at a school in Richards Bay over a matric student’s art which depicted Christ as the McDonald’s clown is a good example of this. From my side I find it perplexing how concerned we are, as a country, about sex and yet how ignorant we are around the damaging effect of witnessing violence on our movie screens and TV sets. For me personally I have a high threshold for on on-screen nudity and sex if it serves the story or the characters, when it doesn’t I find it often difficult to distinguish from porn,” said Bletcher.