Navigating Intimacy on Screen: An Interview with Elle McAlpine, Poor Things’ Intimacy Coordinator
Setting the Stage for Comfortable Storytelling
In the realm of post-#MeToo filmmaking, safe sex scenes have become imperative, and no one understands this better than Elle McAlpine. Recently, as the intimacy coordinator for Yorgos Lanthimos’s fantasy drama, Poor Things, she found herself orchestrating an extravagant orgy involving over 100 dancers. McAlpine chuckles as she recalls her journey home after that daring night shoot, contemplating the intricacies of the scene she had just directed.
Behind the Scenes of Poor Things
Poor Things, with its otherworldly aesthetics, has earned acclaim, particularly with an Oscar nomination for best cinematography. However, the content—featuring Emma Stone portraying a woman with a baby’s brain on a journey of sexual self-discovery—has sparked diverse reactions. As the intimacy coordinator, McAlpine worked at the intersection of the film’s unique vision and the need for on-screen comfort.
Challenges and Contributions
Joining the project in its later stages, McAlpine faced the challenge of translating Lanthimos and Stone’s vision into a comfortable reality. Both director and star commend her role, with Stone acknowledging her initial skepticism. McAlpine emphasizes the importance of her presence not only for Stone but for the entire cast involved in intimate scenes. For the elaborate orgy scene, McAlpine collaborated with three other coordinators and a choreographer, ensuring the well-being of the 120 participants.
From Drama School to Intimacy Coordination
Reflecting on her journey, McAlpine shares her evolution from drama school graduate to intimacy coordinator. Exposure to a workshop led by industry pioneer Ita O’Brien opened her eyes to the nuanced art of choreographing intimate scenes. McAlpine’s experience, including a notable photo spread in the Sunday Times, illustrates the transformative impact of this profession and the need for a specialized language to navigate on-set boundaries.
Overcoming On-Set Challenges
Discussing the intricacies of her role, McAlpine highlights the lack of understanding among some directors regarding on-screen sexual boundaries. On-set hierarchies often hinder open communication, making the role of an intimacy coordinator crucial in creating a professional and comfortable environment. The unique language developed in this profession fosters openness and encourages individuals to consider their comfort levels.
The Professional Evolution of Intimacy Coordination
As McAlpine narrates her journey, it becomes evident that intimacy coordination is not just about choreography but also about fostering a professional and respectful atmosphere. In an era where nuanced storytelling intersects with heightened awareness, the role of intimacy coordinators like Elle McAlpine is pivotal, ensuring that the art of storytelling remains a collaborative and considerate process.
Conclusion: Redefining Boundaries and Comfort in Film
Elle McAlpine’s role as an intimacy coordinator goes beyond orchestrating scenes; it encapsulates the evolving dynamics of filmmaking. Her work on Poor Things exemplifies the delicate balance required to push creative boundaries while ensuring a safe and respectful environment for all involved. In the ever-evolving landscape of cinema, McAlpine’s insights shed light on the transformative power of intimacy coordination in redefining on-screen narratives.