Making sex scenes safe(r) for filmmakers

Winnipeg Film Group offering workshop on shooting intimate scenes

Ciné Sinclaire and Cherrystems founder Kate Sinclaire.

Photo by Callie Lugosi

Inclusive pornographer Kate Sinclaire will hold a workshop on filming sex scenes at the Winnipeg Film Group on Sept. 18. The workshop will address how to approach shooting intimate scenes.

Sinclaire is the founder of Ciné Sinclaire and Cherrystems, two porn companies focusing on authentic and inclusive narratives with an emphasis on safe and respectful play.

Sinclaire emphasizes that the workshop is “Safer Sets,” not “Safe Sets.”

“I don’t think there is anything that is truly going to be 100 per cent safe for everyone,” but there are ways to make sets more safe.

This process begins with pre-production, Sinclaire, says, “understanding why a scene is shot the way it is and what it is trying to say, whose agency is coming through.”

Theresa Thomson is an actor and live model who has filmed nude scenes with directors like Guy Maddin. As a live model, Thomson was not concerned about being nude on camera but realized there were certain things that made her uncomfortable. Maddin found her through a live modeling organization and asked her to be in his film.

“I distinctly remember, ‘Okay, cut. That’s a wrap on Theresa,’ and the lights changing, because I had been under this very intense light,” Thomson says. “And there were for sure three times as many people on set (as when we started). I remember thinking, ‘They are all university guys. These are all young guys.’”

The next time Thomson worked with Maddin, they shot the scene in his apartment, but he also invited a woman colleague to ensure Thomson felt safe while filming.

In major films, sex scenes can be filmed on a closed set, but Thomson says “a closed set can mean 60 people.”

“In recent years, there has been a surge in popularity for intimacy directors, people who are officially licensed to work in film and/or theatre to serve as a liaison between the director and the actors.” Sinclaire says. “Intimacy directors act as a bipartisan third party, evening out the power dynamic.”

From Thomson’s perspective, shooting intimate and nude scenes can be especially sensitive for an actor.

The footage belongs to “someone else, and they can manipulate those images. A bad experience on set can be really hurtful  to a performer, as a performer and as a person.”

Sinclaire says she wants the workshop participants to go home with an understanding of agency and consent.

“They can discuss their boundaries and should have them respected.”

Sinclaire says the workshop isn’t just for actors and directors and is for any role on set.

“We all come from our own background, and we should all be able to have our needs respected.”

Safer Sets: A Guide to Creating a Safe, Positive Space will be held at the Winnipeg Film Group Black Lodge Studio (100 Arthur St.) on Sept. 18. Register at

Published in Volume 74, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 12, 2019)

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