Key Intimate Scenes launch training program for intimacy coordinators

KIS founder and director, Michela Carattini (centre) with KIS employees Adeeb Razzouk (left) and Akala Newman (right).

Australian stage and screen professionals can now undertake specialised training in intimacy coordination without having to travel overseas, following the introduction of a new curriculum based on the domestic industry.

Key Intimate Scenes (KIS) has developed a program designed to combine international standards with elements specific to Australia, such as law, union standards, and state-specific industry requirements. 

It comes after a dedicated committee of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) published Australia’s first set of intimacy guidelines late last year, encouraging the use of intimacy coordinators in productions portraying simulated sex or nudity.

The guidelines, which the screen industry consulted on for 18 months, aim to establish new processes for work involving nudity, intimacy, simulated sexual activity, and sexual violence, so that actors are best prepared and supported.

KIS founder and director, Michela Carattini, was part of the panel which drafted the guidelines, having worked in the industry for more than 20 years as an actor, choreographer, and producer, while being on the core committee of Women In Theatre and Screen (WITS).

She is also one of the first people in the world to be insured under the specific titles of intimacy coordinator/director, a role she has occupied on Made Up Stories’ miniseries Nine Perfect Strangers and Causeway Films’ upcoming drama Blaze.

Having previously studied criminology and psychology, Carattini told IF the idea for the curriculum came from wanting to use her mental health background to address industry concerns.

“WITS were holding thinktank forums and we kept hearing issues around intimate scenes of different kinds,” she said.

“Initially, the curriculum came from me looking for a way to train in this role [of intimacy coordinator] and thinking about the important aspects of this role for my understanding.”

Carattini attended one of the workshops from UK intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien held in Australia towards the end of 2018, going on to train briefly with O’Brien’s Intimacy On Set (IOS) company before becoming an apprentice with Intimacy Directors International in the United States.

She also received instruction from Theatrical Intimacy Education and Intimacy Professionals Association, both based in the US.

While the majority of her tuition was completed online, she did travel overseas during the process, prompting her to examine the accessibility of the required resources for the role.

“As I was working here in Australia, it became clear to me that if I got sick or wasn’t able to go to work, there wouldn’t be anyone to cover me and just how important it was to have training that was accessible, not only to Australians but also to the diverse groups that are represented in Australia, for whom these training avenues are even more inaccessible,” Carattini said.

“The panel [for the guidelines] included a diverse group people from Equity but there wasn’t a lot of discussion on the people that were actually going to do this role and what kind of training they might need that was specific to Australia, as opposed to what they could get overseas.”

Her work resulted in a training curriculum and certification that has been endorsed by both local and overseas stakeholders, including Australian First Nations consultancy Black Pages, and founder of Intimacy Directors International, Tonia Sinia, who first pioneered the role in the United States.

KIS is now working with inaugural employees, Gadigal/Wiradjuri woman Akala Newman and Syrian-born Adeeb Razzouk.

Newman, who is also assistant producer with First Nations Theatre Company Moogahlin Performing Arts, said her new role was aligned with her artistic approach.

“I find the most joy when producing work that empowers,” she said.

“I’m excited to be on my journey as an intimacy professional.”

Razzouk said he “couldn’t wait to bring intimacy coordination to the English-Arabic speaking communities”.

Carattini said while there is currently limited capacity in the training program, the company’s workload continues to expand.

“We are busy doing the work right now, as well as making the curriculum the best it can be,” she said.

“[The employees] are shadowing me on different projects and developing parts of the curriculum with me through their expertise.

“I learn as much from them as they do from me.”

Click here for more information about the program.