Intimacy coordinators have recently become a customary member of any film or television crew. In the last two years, Lizzy Talbot has come into her own in the field, by working on television shows like The Witcher, Bridgerton, and This is Going to Hurt and films, such as Bros and most recently Spoiler Alert. In Spoiler Alert, Talbot was brought on by the filmmakers to help tell the heartwarming true story of Michael Ausiello (Jim Parsons) and Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge) whose relationship is transformed when one of them falls ill.
As part of Behind the Credits series, we spoke with Talbot about her job. While she can’t reveal specifically what she did on Spoiler Alert—that would be too intimate—she talked to us about what an intimacy coordinator does, what makes her work rewarding, and what she might do in the future.
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How did you end up working as an intimacy coordinator on Spoiler Alert?
A friend of a friend recommended me after we had previously worked together.
Can you describe what an intimacy coordinator does?
Absolutely. It's broken down into three sections. The first one is to advocate for the cast and crew during intimate and sensitive scenes. This can involve establishing cast boundaries and ensuring these are protected before, during, and after filming with the use of Nudity Riders and Closed Set Protocols. Secondly, we collaborate with other HODs (i.e. hair and makeup, wardrobe, stunts, etc) to make sure every practical aspect of the intimate scene has been considered and coordinated. The third aspect of our role is to choreograph sensitively any intimate action which has been scripted so we can realize the director’s creative vision while maintaining cast boundaries.
What were the most challenging or interesting projects you have worked on?
Bridgerton is always an exciting project to work on as is The Witcher and The Witcher: Blood Origin. The locations on these shows are consistently challenging as we are often working in castles, mansions, and even on a glacier. Another show I coordinated was BBC/AMC's This Is Going To Hurt which involved a huge amount of working prosthetic genitalia and babies so working on that (also while pregnant myself!) was a huge challenge. I was also involved in a TV series musical this summer which was so much fun to film having not worked on a musical before.
Can you discuss what made the work so interesting on those projects?
I really enjoy working on fantasy shows and period pieces. I'm a history nerd so working with the historical advisor is always a treat and spending my time researching the period is so satisfying. It was incredible researching the birthing aspects of This Is Going To Hurt. It was set in the 1990s from the POV of a junior doctor in the National Health Service—I have family who are NHS doctors—delivering babies in the OBGYN ward. We had prosthetic babies coming out of prosthetic vaginas which were so lifelike and portrayed in a way not seen on TV before. It felt groundbreaking to be showing such a variety of birthing stories in such detail.
Intimacy coordinator is such new film job. How did you get involved in doing it?
I started researching intimacy in theatre in 2015 after realizing that in my work as a fight director there were no protocols or safeguarding procedures in this area. I made connections with other people who were also researching how to protect actors and portray intimate scenes more effectively. I opened my own company a year later.
When you watch other films or television shows, do you think about how your colleagues handle intimate scenes?
Yes. It's really wonderful to be part of a community where you know your colleagues are actively making a difference in the industry. It's such a fine craft to be able to confidently choreograph scenes of this nature and I'd encourage anyone to look at the work of Casey Hudecki, Teniece Divya Johnson, Alicia Rodis, Lindsay Sommers, and so many more.
What do you like most about the kind of work you do in film? What do you like least?
I love getting to work closely with the actors and creatives on projects. My role is often a solo department so getting to collaborate with others and appreciating their talent firsthand makes my day. I also try to have fun on set, I believe it's important to approach the work with a sense of humor and create a relaxed atmosphere especially when the subject material can be intense. The worst part is being a department of one. It can be a lonely role especially because our role often doesn't require us to be on set every day.
Did you always want to work in film production?
Yes but I always imagined myself working with scenes of violence, not intimacy.
What was the first film you saw that made you want to work on films?
I remember as a young child having the original Star Wars: Return of the Jedi which we taped off the television on VHS and then seeing the re-released version on DVD. I couldn't believe they could change a movie which was already out. I started watching as many behind the scenes programs as I could to find out how things were edited. That’s when my interest in film started.
If you made a movie, what would it be about?
I think it would have to be the life story of Julie D'Aubigny. I can't quite believe there isn't something out about her already so I'd love to be a part of sharing her life story with the world.