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Enric Ortuño: Spanish intimacy coordinator of ‘Bridgerton’: ‘The pressure actors are under is terrible’ | USA

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Whenever we talk about the filming of sex scenes and their possible impact on the actors involved, the notorious example of Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris inevitably comes to mind.

Schneider was 19 when she shot the 1972 movie and, as she later explained, a virgin at the time. Director Bernardo Bertolucci, and Schneider’s co-star Marlon Brando, who was then 48, wanted to blur the line between fiction and reality in order to get an extreme reaction from Schneider. So when it occurred to Brando to use butter as a lubricant in a scene in which his character rapes Schneider anally, both men decided it would be better not to warn the actress. “I wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress,” the director admitted some years later. “I behaved horribly with Maria.”

Schneider never got over what happened. Years later, she was to shoot an intimate scene in the erotic historical movie Caligula, but just before the shoot got underway, she suffered a nervous breakdown and was admitted to psychiatric care. Far from supporting her, the film industry painted her as a problematic actress prepared to spoil a shoot. In the 1970s, she suffered from drug addiction and depression and attempted suicide. As far as she was concerned, the scene with Marlon Brando was the underlying cause of her problems. “Even though what Marlon was doing wasn’t real, I was crying real tears,” she said. “I felt humiliated and, to be honest, a little raped, both by Marlon and Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.”

The actress passed away in 2011 from breast cancer and did not get to see any of the very recent changes in the industry. Paradoxically, these changes are thanks to the man who did much to make the lives of actresses a living hell: US producer and convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein. After his abusive antics became a matter for the courts, cinema and streaming platforms began to seriously consider – for both ethical and legal reasons – the need to work with an intimacy coordinator. This figure is responsible for reaching agreements with actors, and choreographing the sex scenes to make them narratively more interesting, but also less traumatic for actors.

The most powerful actors’ union in the United States, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), defines an intimacy coordinator as “an advocate, a liaison between actors and production, and a movement coach and/or choreographer in regards to nudity and simulated sex and other intimate and hyper-exposed scenes.”

Today, virtually all big-budget series and an increasing number of movies have an intimacy coordinator among their credits, although film has lagged behind TV in this respect. Perhaps the best-known intimacy coordinator is Ita O’Brien, the Brit who choreographed sex scenes in series such as Sex Education, Normal People and Gentleman Jack. Her name became known beyond the confines of the industry when director Michaela Coel dedicated her BAFTA award for I May Destroy You to O’Brien. “I want to dedicate this award to the director of intimacy Ita O’Brien,” she said at the awards ceremony. “Thank you for your existence in our industry, for making the space safe, for creating physical, emotional and professional boundaries, so we can make work about exploitation, loss of respect, about abuse of powers, without being exploited or abused in the process.”

A sex scene from the series ‘Bridgerton.’
A sex scene from the series ‘Bridgerton.’

What is not so well known is that another of the most in-demand intimacy directors, working on series such as Starstruck, Bridgerton, Adult Material, The Girlfriend Experience, Domina and The Nevers is Spaniard Enric Ortuño, from Alicante province, who, like almost all his colleagues in this fledgling profession, came to it by chance.

Trained in theater, he had been traveling to London every year to take courses in areas such as fencing and movement. “Then, in 2018, I was lucky enough while in the US to meet the three women who were blazing this trail,” he explained at the Serielizados Fest festival in Barcelona. “I had always been interested in this world, as a choreographer and assistant of body expression on stage. It’s such a new job and everyone has come to it from a different place. There are people who come from the world of costume, but most of us come from choreography or dance; from some type of physical work.”

Given the job in hand, Ortuño’s personal credentials make him something of a curiosity in the profession. “I’m a middle-aged heterosexual cisgender white male,” he says, almost regretfully. “And this job is 90% about protecting those who aren’t. I’m aware of that and it’s complicated. Sometimes the producers who hire me have to think about this. I could choose not to do the job but I also know that I can help performers have a better experience and, so far, I’ve always had good feedback.”

A common misconception when it comes to intimacy direction is that almost everything takes place on set, such as agreeing on how much is covered by a sheet or how far a tongue goes into someone’s mouth. In reality, that’s only a small part of what an intimacy coordinator does, since set time is expensive. The work starts much earlier, when the script is sent to the actors and the so-called intimacy riders or clauses concerning how each sex scene is going to be approached are negotiated. In the case of big productions, that’s where the lawyers representing everyone from the producers to the actors come in. “I had to learn about this because I had no legal training, but, yes, I spend a lot of time retouching and returning contracts to all parties,” says Ortuño. Often, at this stage of the process, the production team puts pressure on actors reluctant to shoot a scene, using the oldest trick in the book: if you don’t do it, there are plenty of others who will.

Ortuño talks about the recent case of an actor he worked with who was reluctant to show his buttocks. He was told that if he didn’t, he would be fired. Eventually, an agreement was reached. “In this profession, you’re only as good as your last project,” says Ortuño. “The pressure is terrible. They think they’re not going to be recommended; they think they’re going to be vetoed. It puts actors in a very vulnerable position.”

A scene from the series ‘The Girlfriend Experience.’
A scene from the series ‘The Girlfriend Experience.’KERRY HAYES (© 2016 Starz Entertainment, LLC)

Ortuño also likes to make clear that he is not a censor or an agent of puritanism on set; on the contrary. “If your scene needs 20 people having an orgy and it’s necessary for your story, great, but let’s shoot it professionally,” he says. “It has to be established during casting, rather than letting the actor know when they are already on set, which is something that used to happen a lot before. And once we’re shooting, we need to get the protocol right, with a closed set and a reduced crew, so it is seen by a minimum number of people.”

Since the intimacy coordinator is such a new figure in the film industry, there is a generational gap between young actors, who believe shoots have always been this way, and veterans, who are used to a different modus operandi. But most veterans have welcomed the new approach with open arms. “In the old days there was a lot of secrecy, everything was talked about in hushed tones and the actors were tortured by certain things,” says Ortuño. There are two recurring situations: actors, or “performers with external genitals,” who are scared of having an erection on set; and “performers with internal genitals” who are afraid of getting their period when an intimate scene is to be shot. Both things happen, and a lot. And the job of the intimacy coordinator is to navigate these situations so that everything goes as smoothly as possible for everyone.

“Acting is a psychophysical process and the body doesn’t know you’re lying,” Ortuño explains. “Your body actually reacts. It’s quite possible that there will be a reaction to friction and the actor will get an erection. That can’t be foreseen; it’s a primary instinct. So what do we do? If necessary, we stop shooting for five minutes. In addition, the actors wear an intimacy garment [a kind of protector that covers the penis and testicles] and sometimes a silicone barrier is added. In the case of actresses who have their period, we try to make it so a tampon or a pad can be used by modifying the choreography of the scene.”

The ultimate goal for many intimacy coordinators goes beyond protecting actors. After all, there are controversial cases much more recent than Maria Schneider’s. When actresses Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos confronted Abdellatif Kechich, the director of the 2013 film Blue is the Warmest Color about his handling of theirs sex scenes in the movie, he ridiculed them and told them that construction workers had it worse.

A scene from the series ‘Adult Material.’
A scene from the series ‘Adult Material.’

What intimacy coordinators aim for is to change the way sex is incorporated into series and movies. “What we have seen so far in general cinema is only a very small part of human sexuality,” says Ortuño, referring perhaps to the classic heterosexual sex scene which shows the actress’ breasts and just the male torso. “We are trying to work out how to expand it. I don’t have the power to change a script, but I do try to have conversations. I’ve been working on several anal sex scenes lately and I always insist that they include a shot of stimulation and lubrication beforehand. Maybe the director isn’t interested in spending five seconds on that, but I am there to point out that those seconds of stimulation can be just as erotic.”

Ortuño is referring to the controversy surrounding a scene in the fourth season of the Spanish series Élite in which two actors have anal sex without any prior lubrication, prompting a slew of viewers to point out how flawed the depiction was. Sometimes Ortuño wins battles on set, but loses them in the editing room. That is, the scene is shot as he suggests, but then those extra seconds disappear in the final edit.

In the meantime, the credits on his IMDB page are growing. Most recently, he has been on set in Manchester where they are shooting the adaptation of Dolly Alderton’s book, Everything I Know about Love for the BBC. It is a romantic comedy quite removed from his other projects pending release, such as the Netflix fantasy series The Sandman, based on the books by Neil Gaiman and The Wheel of Time, on Amazon Prime. But whatever the series or movie, his ultimate goal is to make the sex scenes more interesting while ensuring the actors feel safe.

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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