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UK Directors Encouraged to Watch Hays Code Films for Sex Scene Tips Amid Pandemic

How do you shoot a sex scene amid the coronavirus pandemic? Watching "Casablanca" could help.

"Casablanca"

“Casablanca”

Warner Bros.

Filmmakers in the United Kingdom are being encouraged to watch Hays Code productions such as “Casablanca” and “It Happened One Night” in order to learn how to best execute sex scenes amid the coronavirus pandemic. As productions across the globe begin restarting, a big question remains over how films will pull off intimate scenes where characters can’t be socially distanced. Directors UK, the British organization that represents 7,500 filmmakers, has issued a new report advising directors to learn from the past.

“The director, writer, and producer should review the script together and agree which physical interactions need to occur between performers and decide whether substitutions can be made,” the report states. “Does a physical act need to be shown? If working within a series format, can the intimacy be delayed?”

The report adds, “You may even find inspiration by revisiting classic films such as ‘It Happened One Night’ (1934) or ‘Casablanca’ (1943) – some of the greatest screen romances ever made and all filmed under the Hays Code, which prohibited the depiction of sex on screen. Consider what tools classic works offer for contemporary storytelling.”

Directors UK notes that “the build-up to an intimate scene can sometimes be more exciting than the scene itself” and that “emotional intimacy can be as engaging as physical intimacy.” Films released under the Hays Code with intimacy between characters support these claims, as the report states that characters “could be shown fixing their own clothes/re-dressing after the event” or body parts could be shown “moving under bedclothes.” Another option is to show “the closing of a bedroom door and leave the action to the viewer’s imagination.”

In the situations where sex scenes are essential to the production, the Directors UK report states that crews should consider using motion capture, animation, or green screen technology to keep actors distant while making it appear they are close on screen. The report also recommends using an actor’s real-life partner for intimate scenes, which is something the CBS soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful” tried in June. That production also utilized sex dolls to keep actors distanced.

Click here to read the Directors UK report in its entirety.

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