During this weekend’s pre-recorded ceremony held at London’s Television Centre, Michaela Coel’s critically acclaimed HBO drama I May Destroy You won the BAFTA Television award for Best Mini-Series, as well as landing Best Leading Actress for the show’s star and creator. In her acceptance speech for the latter prize, Coel shone a light on one of the project’s unsung heroes: I May Destroy You’s intimacy coordinator, Ita O’Brien. “I want to dedicate this award to the director of intimacy Ita O’Brien,” the Chewing Gum star said. “Thank you for your existence in our industry, for making the space safe for creating physical, emotional, and professional boundaries so that we can make work about exploitation, loss of respect, about abuse of power, without being exploited or abused in the process.”
Popularized by the Me Too movement, the call for intimacy coordinators, who work with productions to shoot scenes featuring sex or depictions of sexual assault like I May You Destroy You, has become stronger over the last few years, with SAG-AFTRA releasing a standardized set of guidelines for the first industry-wide accreditation for IC programs earlier this year. “I know what it’s like to shoot without an intimacy director — the messy, embarrassing feeling for the crew, the internal devastation for the actor,” continued Coel. “Your direction was essential to my show, and I believe essential for every production company that wants to make work exploring themes of consent.”
Later in the press room, the Black Earth Rising actress reflected on how the experience of shooting with an intimacy coordinator makes filming without one feel “thoughtless and “really inconsiderate” by comparison. “I’ve shot without intimacy directors and I’ve shot with Ita — and team members that Ita has trained — and the confidence that it gives you to be able to really tell a story that looks harrowing, that looks inappropriate, whilst being totally appropriate, whilst being protected, means that you’re able to properly tell that story,” she explained, according to Variety.
“I also think it’s a very vulnerable place for not just actors, for the crew as well, because the crew might have had experiences and it triggers things for them. So, to have her there protects everybody,” said Coel. “And if you don’t have people like Ita on set when you’re shooting things like that, I think it’s quite thoughtless, and I think it’s really inconsiderate and it shows a lack of mindfulness.”