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“Give Me a Little More of That!” Filmmakers’ Advice On How To Shoot Sex Scenes

“Give Me a Little More of That!” Filmmakers’ Advice On How To Shoot Sex Scenes (photo)

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AskMen.com solicited advice on how to shoot a sex tape from director Tommy Wiseau. Wiseau responded with tips he used while shooting the sex scenes from his cult hit “The Room”. “You need certain chemistry.” said Wiseau. “I believe that Johnny and Lisa in The Room had great chemistry, that’s my take. Yes, maybe some of the stuff — people have different opinions — but how you define making love to anybody?”

All right, so unless you want to make a sex tape that looks like this, Wiseau’s ten suggestions might not be particularly helpful. And maybe he’s not the “best” person to tell you how to shoot a sex scene (or to teach a sex ed class, for that matter). But here’s the thing: if you’re an aspiring director (or just a curious fan) looking for some genuine advice on the topic there’s not a ton of it out there on the internet. Some master directors are baffled by the subject too — even Martin Scorsese’s on record admitting, “I don’t know how to shoot a sex scene.”

The best article on the subject online is from a 1988 issue of Premiere. The piece, written by Margy Rochlin, features a bunch of quotes from directors and actors talking about the, um, ins and outs of shooting sex scenes. “Fatal Attraction” director Adrian Lyne describes his part in the process as that of a “demented cheerleader [in] a bizarre kind of menage a trois” who shouts encouragement and directions from the sidelines (“Good, good, good. Give me a little more of that. Show me your breast. Water, water! Great!”).

An anonymous director in the same article has a really interesting comment about how he or she likes to build sexual chemistry between actors. “If the actors become romantically involved, all the better. A clever manipulator can play matchmaker between the actors. But you can only grow things where the soil is fertile.” I’ve never before heard a director admit they actively try to get their actors together offscreen for the purposes of sparks onscreen. And I’m not sure how practical this suggestion really is; in a lot of the famous examples of this phenomenon –Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe in “Proof of Life,” for instance — the publicity surrounding the affair overwhelmed the movie itself.

07282010monster1.jpgThough it sounds counterintuitive, one way for a director to get what he wants out of a sex scene is to let the actors decide what he shoots. In a 2001 interview with Nerve.com, Marc Forster talked about his approach for the sex scene in his film “Monster’s Ball.” “When I talked to Billy Bob and Halle at the beginning,” Forster said, “I told them very clearly what I had in mind. My main concern at the beginning was Halle; I wanted to make sure she felt comfortable with it and so I allowed her to have final cut over that scene… [She] said, ‘Either you tell me every angle of the shoot’ — which would make it very stiff — ‘or you just give me final cut over the scene.’ I said that was fine. It was better because they didn’t have to worry about it and so we had more freedom. We shot the scene and then three of us went through the dailies. Basically it was decided from there what they wanted to cut or keep. When they saw the final scene, they were both very happy with it.”

Earlier this year, Kristin Scott Thomas offered a journalist her perspective on what makes a good sex scene while promoting her film “Partir.” “It’s all about choreography. The director and the cameras dictate what and how you have to act. Just like they instruct you how to make a blow look like it hurts during a fight scene,” Thomas said.

07282010_truthlies1.jpgChoreography was definitely on the mind of director Atom Egoyan when he shot the explicit sex scene in his film “Where the Truth Lies.” Egoyan was contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated film and in a piece entitled “The Thrust of It All,” he described the difficulty he had “trying to choreograph extended scenes of sexual activity without seeing the prolonged thrusting associated with the act.” In Egoyan’s opinion, “the best way to shoot a sex scene and make it seem real is to use a master shot — an uninterrupted sequence with no cuts. I wanted to see the bodies. The overwhelming challenge was how to show two (and in this case even more) people having sex without depicting the act of thrusting.” Egoyan “rehearsed” the scenes with dolls, trying to figure out a way to get what he wanted without pissing off the MPAA Ratings Board. It didn’t work; the film received an NC-17 and was later released unrated.

Finally, for some less practical but more hilarious musings on sex scenes, check out this video of John Turturro, speaking with remarkable candor at public interview at The New School in January of 2009. Turturro has an interesting perspective on the subject — that sex scenes require a narrative obstacle otherwise “there’s nothing to play” — but he gets that out of the way in the first 30 seconds of the nine minute clip. The rest of the time he shares some great anecdotes about directing Kate Winslet simulating sex on a yoga ball in “Romance & Cigarettes” and getting bitten on the nipple by Emily Watson in “The Luzhin Defense.”

So let’s recap. To make a great sex scene you should:

1)Scream at the actors from behind the camera.
2)Get them to hook-up offscreen.
3)Let them dictate what you shoot and how you edit it.
4)Have them suck on each other’s nipples.

Hm. Maybe Tommy Wiseau’s advice wasn’t so crazy after all.

[Additional Photos: “Monster’s Ball,” Lionsgate, 2001; “Where the Truth Lies,” THINKFilm, 2005]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…