How to film nudity

10 Lessons I’ve Learned About Making An Independent Erotic Art Film by By Alexia Anastasio

In January, 2014, The Wrap’s Tim Molloy asked a panel including Lena Dunham, HBO’s Girls executive producers Jenni Konner and Judd Apatow why there was so much nudity on the show. Yes, 2014.

“It’s because it’s a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive,” explained Dunham. For many indie filmmakers, especially females who also star in their projects, it can be a trap.

While it may seem bizarre to keep having this conversation of why nudity is used, we should really be talking about when nudity is used and how it can be an effective storytelling tool.

It is easy to cast judgement on a show as high-profile as HBO (after all, Game of Thrones, Sparticus, and Boardwalk Empire all have nudity), but what about art films? Are they judged as having too much nudity or do audiences expect it for low-budget cinema? Greta Gerwig and Chloë Sevigny are examples of actors who have bared all.

When you are making an art film, this is a decision that you must have with yourself and your actors. Do you do nudity? Do you bare not only your skin but your artistic soul in the process?

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I have learned some lessons dealing with this issue and I feel you can benefit from them and avoid the hazards.

  1. Do your own nudity –You can always trust that if you control the film – the nudity in your film will be communicating the right message. You are showing a real part of life. You don’t need to look like a supermodel either. Most women don’t look like that and the media is stockpiled with so-called “perfect” beings with perfect bodies. Be proud.

  2. Trust your actors – give them credit for bringing their experience, training, energy and personality to the role and to the production. This is what is going to make your film gold. The right talent and team are everything. If you plan ahead of time all the actions in the script, the actors will not overstep your boundaries and the shoot will go smoothly.

  1. Audition – audition carefully, because no actor (male or female) wants to be surprised. List your role as Nudity Required if it is required. Be specific about what kind of nudity – implied nudity, topless nudity, or full-frontal. Be authentic when running your auditions and you will find the right people.

  1. Pay your actors – discuss rate ahead of time and have actors sign contracts that they “will perform in scene with sexual situations and nudity.” Sometimes actors will get a pay-bump for doing nudity.

  1. Nude scenes first – Shoot emotional and nude scenes first, to avoid the dread of doing them at the end of the shoot when everyone is drained.

  1. Partner Yoga – Simple and easy yoga postures (YouTube has plenty of yoga videos) will help get your actors connected in the moment and to each other. The interconnected energy between your actors will shine through. Especially if you want your audience to feel for your characters and their story.

  1. Limit your crew or make a closed set (no visitors or unessential crew). I like to shoot with a small crew. This will make your actors feel less self-conscience.

  1. Fewer takes by rehearsing with your clothes on. Use robes in between takes. Abdellatif Kechiche, director of Blue is The Warmest Colour reportedly did two full days of lesbian love scenes. Trust me, you don’t need it. You or your actors will be worn out.

  1. Be professional – Don’t flaunt your body or walk around nude. Avoid joking about sex or asking them what their significant other thinks about them doing a nude scene. You can make it look “real” by acting and staying focused to the goal on hand. Getting the scene in the can.

  1. Have fun – The most important part. You are making art. After all, this is a film and creating art is satisfying. Make the best choices you can by picking the right part for you and the right script. You don’t need to force it when it’s right. It will feel right. Ultimately, the final product will reflect that.