I May Destroy You

How I Work: Intimacy Coordinator Ita O’Brien

The intimacy coordinator has worked on TV shows including Sex Education, Normal People and I May Destroy You to help actors feel empowered in intimate scenes on screen. She talks about her work and why brands and advertisers need to take notice of it too

Ita O’Brien is an intimacy coordinator and movement director for film, television and theatre. Previously a dancer and actor herself, she’s channelled this experience into creating safe, considered and consensual environments when it comes to working with intimacy, and in scenes with sexual content and nudity in film, TV and theatre. 

O’Brien has pioneered the role of intimacy coordinator and she has spent the last six years developing the Intimacy on Set Guidelines, a best practice document that covers everything from the audition process to when the actors are on set. She also founded Intimacy on Set, a service that provides intimacy coordinators, consultancy, advocacy and training for TV, film and theatre sets.  

The role of an intimacy coordinator has been put in the spotlight more recently because of O’Brien’s groundbreaking work on smash hit TV shows including Sex Education, Normal People and I May Destroy You, all of which tackle sensitive subjects around sex, intimacy and relationships. The beauty in O’Brien’s work is her ability to lay out best practice processes to ensure all parties feel safe and protected, all the while ensuring these intimate portrayals still feel authentic, engaging and a key part of the storytelling.

Here, O’Brien explains what the role of an intimacy coordinator actually involves, the challenges she’s faced and why anyone involved in portraying sex or relationships to the masses has a responsibility to do it from a position of “equality, safety and care”.

Ita O'Brien
Top: I May Destroy You, BBC/HBO, Above: Ita O’Brien by Nick Dawes

What an intimacy coordinator does The role of the intimacy coordinator is a practitioner who brings a professional process to the intimate content in theatre, TV and film, and techniques to give a clear physical structure to the intimate content. My job is to choreograph intimate scenes, and given the nature of the content, additionally ensure that the actors are safe in the creation of them.