“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]



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.