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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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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