~ SALT ‘N’ PEPA
We costumers are some of the ‘lucky’ few that get to be on set during a sex scene. Yep right on set, really, really close. Some of you who have had the experience may know this already; it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be!
Decidedly unsexy, and if you have any ounce of empathy in you at all… you’re feeling really bad for the actors ensconced in said sex scenes. Distractions for the crew are a must. I like to turn away and stare at the wall. Not a great distraction. Some romantic music would help… well any type of music… playing really, REALLY loud, while I stand facing the wall waiting for the magical word “CUT” to be sung out by the director.
I worked on one sex scene that was shot over an entire day and a half. We worked the first day, got a few hours sleep, then the next morning, we jumped in where we left off! A day and a half for a happy ending and less than two minutes in the movie! The experience was… dare I say it… anti-climactic.
I always love it when someone says to me, “Oh sex, I guess as a costumer you don’t have much to do on set that day.” Well if they only knew!
For any nude scene… whether it be waking up in bed, having a shower, or the vaunted sex… we costumers are always there. We do extensive prep before the camera rolls and give special care to the actors on the day of the shoot… the amount of special care is often determined by the anxiety level of the actors!
Years ago, while working on a series that regularly showed female ‘corpses’ in a morgue, I was wondering why we hired female actors… very nervous female actors… to do this. I asked, “They don’t have lines, can’t you just hire someone who is comfortable being naked?” My bright idea was latched on to! I thought, “Great, now I won’t have stressed actresses!”
I sighed with relief, until…
I had to follow the quite-comfortable-in-their-own-skin young ladies around and ask them to please put their robes on, cover up by craft service, and remind them that this was a work environment. Our poor crew members were finding it very difficult to do their jobs, let alone get a cup of coffee! One of them actually did complain… not really it was more like, “Please do something!”. But still!
That’s what I get for being a helpy girl!
That was a unique situation. Most shows that involve nudity have walking, talking, laughing, crying (acting) actors that are in multiple scenes involving extreme emotional ranges before they need to be naked… dead or alive. What we costumers need to do is prepare… way before those scenes are ready to be shot.
When you first read the script, take note of the scenes with nudity and what level of nudity and action is implied by the scene description and dialogue. The next step is to figure out what rating the show holds. If it is a ‘G’ rating, which is family friendly, then there won’t be a whole lot of anything that shows, so you may be fine with a strapless bra and shorts for an actress that is in bed under the covers. If you are doing a ‘R’ rated show… like the one I’m currently on… there will be all sorts of things that you will be dealing with!
It is always good to find out what each cast member has in their contract about what they are willing and unwilling to show on screen. No, you won’t be able to see their actual contract, but you can ask the designer if they have been told what to expect or the designer may ask you to talk to the AD’s. As the on-set representative of the Costume Department, it is important for you to find this info out, because you will be intimately involved in every step of the process. As with all their scenes, we want our actors to feel understood, well cared for and respected while shooting intimate scenes. That starts with knowing what to expect.
If you can, create an opportunity to speak with the director before the shoot day and see if they have any specific expectations for the work. This way you will be prepared if you need a variety of different types of cover-ups on the day.
You have read the script, talked to the Designer, the AD’s and the director… Now gather all of your supplies (see list below) and talk to the cast! They are the ones who have to put it all on… or take it all off, as it were.
Take the cast through all the options that you have; figure out what they’re comfortable with and they don’t like.
Okay options… we’re talking about everything from pasties to boxers… let’s get into it!
When I first started my costume career we built most of the ‘coverage’ ourselves. We could always get nipple covers but everything else was custom made! Today, there are some amazing products available on the market.
Here is a list of some basics that you may want to have with you each time you do a nude scene. These items should be purchased by the show, although some items you may want to purchase for your own kit because they are really useful.
Ladies Laser cut nude thong, panty, boy short (skin tone)
G-String with thin nude or clear elastic sides (skin tone)
Strapless undies, Shibue
Nipple covers, different sizes different colors, fabric and silicone
Band-aid, eye patches
A piece of flesh tone fabric, to cut up if needed
Flesh tone fitted boxers, Briefs, G-strings (Skin tone)
Pouches with draw string at the top; usually made in house (these have multiple names – cock sock (I don’t like that one! Yuck), the pouch, Marble bag, Lolly bag (last is my favorite from an Aussie Actor I worked with a few years ago… gross, yes, but there needs to be some humor in it all to keep things fun and not to stressful!)
Telesis glue and Remover (must have the remover to use the glue!)
Bikini Bite roll-on or spray body glue
The glue and brushes I always have in my kit, you never know when those will be useful! We used the Telesis to glue the lights on the Tron suits!
*A quick note about underwear: all undergarments and coverage pieces that come in contact with the genitals are only to be used for only one person, these are products that are considered disposable. Genital pasties may be disposed of after one day or scene, base undergarments that can be laundered may remain in that actor’s line up until the end of the show. So… to be clear… undergarments and coverage are not to be shared between actors. Undergarments used for an individual actor may be laundered and re-used by that actor when needed. At the end of the shoot you can leave all (laundered!) undies in each cast members closet, let them take them home if they want, or throw those puppies away!
**A quick note about EXPENSIVE and ON CAMERA undergarments: expensive lingerie (such as La Perla) should not be considered disposable! These garments should remain in the individual actor’s line up and are considered an asset. So… to be clear… do not allow multiple actors to wear them and at the end of the show do not give them away or throw them out!
Okay so here is the trick; no matter what you have or don’t have for supplies… you need to have empathy and compassion. The actor you’re working with needs your help to keep them comfortable and calm. They need to know you are there for them. I have said this before in my blog about fittings, Watch Where You Stick That Pin:
“Listen, this is important… be a professional. You’re about to see highly paid heartthrobs in their skivvies. If you can’t be professional and respectful in this situation… this is not the job for you. If you are a professional, you will help everyone feel at ease… if you freak out, well, let’s just not go there.”
On the day of the shoot, once your actors are covered or uncovered with whatever garments or coverings they may or may not have on, let the 1st AD know how the actors are dressed and what you have for supplies on stand-by if anything changes. This way, everyone is working together when it comes to shooting the scene and last minute surprises can be dealt with quickly and professionally.
Many shows ago I worked on a scene that… as the result of a lascivious alien ray gun… had a ton of naked people! The gentleman that was the body double for our lead cast member had just tried the ‘film thing’ out as a lark. He was completely new to the world behind the camera… cut to me and him in a bathroom and me gluing fabric in areas that his kids had probably had never seen! What do you do to help everyone remain calm? Direct eye contact; look your cast in the eye and don’t be embarrassed. This is your job and theirs, be professional and respectful. Everything will work out fine.
Most coverings will come with some adhesive backing to it. The nipple covers are like band-aids; they have a sticky edge and a soft center. I often have a good selection of children’s eye patches in my kit. These are inexpensive, easy to find and useful for more than just nude shots. They work great when the set is too cold and the bra is to thin!!!
Often during a scene the straps or edges of underwear can be a problem. If they want a little more leg or they can see the bra strap when an arm is raised you will need to cut away the piece that is visible. Sometimes a good glue can come in really handy in these situations. Roll on or spray body glues like ‘Bikini Bite’ can be great to hold things in place. This product is often used by beauty queens during their bathing suit walks.
When there is extreme stress on the area of clothing, from the elements or the actor’s movements, you may need to use stronger glue. This is where the Telesis comes in. Telesis is prosthetic glue that is mostly used in the makeup department. It is great to have a little on hand in your kit, but in a pinch, you might be able to borrow some from the makeup technician that you are working with. Telesis glue will keep everything in place and if you are working in a pool or the shower it will be your only option. Most body glues dissolve with water, Telesis is water resistant and needs a remover to break it down.
***A quick cautionary note: Telesis is an expensive glue. A little goes a long way so you do not need to buy or carry a large bottle with you. And remember to always have the remover or you will have problems!
The ‘must’, must have? Nude or skin tone fabric! Skin toned fabric is a great back up. It allows you to make anything on the fly. If you are working on a PG movie and the actress is wearing a delicate and lacy lingerie set you can use this fabric to line the cups of the bra and the panties to add a little extra modesty. If you have a well-matched skin tone fabric, you can cut and glue it to anything you need.
So what have I managed to say in this full, well rounded, silky soft, artfully trimmed, but completely non-sexy sex blog?
Imagine you are the one having to doff your skivvies for multiple takes of multiple shots from multiple angles, possibly over several days, in front of an entire crew who are trying very hard not to be looking even when they have to… and then see it broadcasted out for millions of viewers… wouldn’t you want a calm professional well supplied costumer at your side?
Found this on the net for anyone that is wondering the difference:
Basic Description for Men’s and Women’s underwear:
Thong – From the front, a thong is virtually identical to a bikini bottom. From the back, a thong panty is a strip of fabric worn between the buttocks.
G-string – consists of a triangular wedge of fabric in the front, and a string or thin elastic strip in the back that sits between the buttocks.
Tanga– full butt but just a small string on sides
Little humor from the creators of the TV Series Master of Sex