Sex Sells: Filming Nude ScenesBy Monique Parent
A couple of weeks ago, Allen at B-Independent.com asked if I would consider writing a short piece instructing novice filmmakers on how to handle on-set nudity with actors. My first reaction was, "what the heck would I say?" I asked Allen for a list of questions to get me started and boy, did they! I decided that I have a lot to say on the subject--much more than a "short piece" would allow me.
Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Monique Parent. I am an actress who has appeared nude in an astounding number of films. If you don't know who I am, my credits can be viewed at IMDB.
I am writing this as a guide for the directors and producers of low budget, independent films. I'll be discussing nudity on film with the assumption that your movie will have an R or perhaps an NC-17 rating based on the parameters set by the Motion Picture Association.
An R-rated motion picture, in the view of the Rating Board, contains some adult material. An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously. Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their children. Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.
An NC-17 rated motion picture is one that, in the view of the Rating Board, most parents would consider patently too adult for their children 17 and under. No children will be admitted. NC-17 does not mean "obscene" or "pornographic" in the common or legal meaning of those words, and should not be construed as a negative judgment in any sense. The rating simply signals that the content is appropriate only for an adult audience. An NC-17 rating can be based on violence, sex, aberrational behavior, drug abuse or any other element that most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children.
Just to keep things simple, I'll be talking about full nudity front and back without showing genitalia of either sex. This is the standard for films with an R rating. Many of my films are considered (by others) to be Softcore, but for me, the line for pornography is the genitals. This will be the standard for my discussions. So if you are looking to "push the envelope", this might not be very helpful.
Most directors in the low budget world, are technical people, in my experience. Even directors who consider themselves to be "actor's directors" are uncomfortable shooting nudity. And rightly so!!
The primary reason to have the element of nudity in a film is money. It helps make almost any film more saleable. Let's face it, if you are making a movie that isn't necessarily genre specific (ie: horror, action, comedy) the least expensive thing you can add is naked people. One of the mistakes that I see many low budget films make, is adding nudity and sex to the script to help it sell, but because they don't know how to deal with the actors, the end result is.... unsatisfactory.
I'm going to be guiding you through the quagmire of actor's insecurities so that you can sell the movie you have sold your soul (or at least maxed out all your credit cards) to make. Not to sound all New-Age-y, but it's all about trust and respect. When in doubt, personalize.
The Body Check
- I hate, hate, hate the body check. But it is, I'm afraid, necessary. Too many actors (male and female) will SAY they have no problem with nudity but then balk on the day. Just as they will tell you they are experienced tennis players when they've really only had two lessons back in high school. They are so hungry for a job, they will say anything to get it. Chances are, if an actor is willing to strip down in a room full of people for an audition, they're cool with it. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to stand naked in front of 5 strangers? To stand there naked and be judged? Could you do it?
- Don't do the body check on the first round of auditions. Get yourself a good selection of actors for the second read, and then do the body check. NOTIFY your auditioning actors that there will be a body check - hopefully, they will be smart enough to wear things that come off quickly and don't leave unattractive markings on the body. Don't put the body check on tape.Turn the camera OFF. I know you want to have it on tape to review later. As an actor, I do not want my naked body just standing there in bad flourescent lighting to end up YouTube somehow. Would you?? Trust me when I say that putting your actors at ease right from the beginning will make life easier for everyone. It's probably worth asking them if they are comfortable with nudity while the camera is running though. Also, it's a really good idea to have both sexes represented there in the room. Once again, makes the actors feel safe and respected and encourages them to trust you. And I sure hope you know better than to ask anyone under the age of 18 to strip down - check ID first if you aren't sure.
- The purpose of the body check is not to find the most perfect body in the world and cast your actors based on that. Unless you are doing a classic T & A Bikini type movie, perfection isn't required. You're just making sure they will do what they say they will do, and avoiding any unpleasant surprises later - like massive tattoos (if they aren't appropriate for the character and will require makeup) or tan lines, or whatever.
The Modified Body Check
- It's not always necessary to see your actors fully nude. If you really only plan on shooting them from the waist up, stripping down to underwear is fine. If you are making a movie with a strong T & A factor and hot bods are the priority, having them strip down to a bikini or bra and panties on the first audition is reasonable, I believe. Once again, let the actors or their agents know what will be required of them. Scheduling note: remember that allowing time while they take their clothes off and put them back on will eat up a huge amount of your day. Time is money, baby....
That's it for this installment. I'll address some practical aspects for on set nudity next time. Detailed info on:
- The Patch - What is it? Where do we get it? How is it used? Why would we want to?
- The Sock - So that's where they go when they disappear from the laundry!
- The Schedule - Reasons to shoot the naked stuff first and why the hell do they shoot sex scenes after lunch?
- The Lingo - Now that they are naked, what the hell do I do with them????
More stuff when I think of it...
This article originally appeared on Monique Parent's blog and was reprinted with permission.
Monique Parent has appeared in films ranging from "Playtime" to "The Truth About Cats and Dogs." You can find a full list of credits on IMDb. You can learn more about Monique, and interact with other fans, through her website, www.UniqueMonique.com.