Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Jenkins took to the stage inside Park City’s Egyptian Theater on Sunday afternoon to share the spotlight with author Lisa Taddeo, celebrity intimate coordinator Ita O’Brien and couple therapy star Dr. Orna Guralnik to talk about all things intimate for an official Sundance Film Festival panel, The Power of Story: About Intimacy. But before he could delve into the subject, Jenkins cleared his throat of praise.
His partner, award-winning filmmaker Lulu Wang, is a huge fan of couple therapy, and she watched all three seasons (more than once), and she “slowly” made him watch the Showtime series. When it came to Sunday’s discussion, he realized the moderator was the therapist in the series, so he immediately texted Wang. “You have to tell her how much I love the show,” Jenkins said of Wang’s reaction.
With that tribute, Jenkins answered Guralnik’s first question of the day, an important question for addressing what intimacy means to them on a personal level. When it came to Jenkins, he joked that “as a male resident of the workshop, I feel like I should say intimacy is taking out the trash and washing the dishes,” to the cheers of the crowd. .
“For me, the intimacy in my current relationship is, I know what I want to say, I know what I think I should say,” he adds, “but here, I know I am feeling.” What and the most direct way is to watch your damn show over and over again.
Jenkins shared a story from the best picture competition Moonlight, where he is directing the first kiss between actors Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerome. The key beach scene marks Sanders’ first exploration of the gender of Chiron’s character. “None of these kids have ever been in a movie or kissed anyone in the movie,” said the director, who had to ask as the psuedo intimacy coordinator. “They have to make up in front of all these people and all the grumpy guys in the grips department.”
Jenkins recounted that Jerome had some difficulty understanding the footage and spoke to him by explaining that it was Chiron’s first sexual experience, but it wasn’t with Jerome’s Kevin. “He trusts you, help him with that,” Jenkins recalls telling Jerome, and from there, the actor understood. “The frame was set and the footage navigated from there.”
“The problem with making movies is that you can’t get each actor’s thoughts in mind,” says Jenkins, who notes that he doesn’t have an intimate coordinator on the film. Moonlight or If Beale Street could talk. “It can be dangerous to have an actor’s presence here and another actor’s presence here. It’s great to have these instructions.”
Speaking of an actor’s presence, it was announced at the beginning of the event that Dakota Johnson who had planned to attend the seminar had to drop out of school, citing a “family emergency,” according to Joana Vicente of the Sundance Institute. The board also had other issues, namely a “technical problem” that caused the start time to be delayed by more than an hour.
As it began, the quartet contributed to an in-depth conversation about changing protocols on set, their approach to intimacy, consent, and how things work today. following major changes due to the #MeToo movement.
O’Brien, who has worked on such projects, said: “It’s really important that actors have the autonomy to stop acting. The Watchman, The Ordinary, The Great, I Can Destroy You, Industrial, It’s a Sin, Sex Education, The Last Match and coming soon Magic Mike’s Last Dance. She shared an example of recent work with an unnamed actor who, after chatting with his co-star, said he wouldn’t touch anyone’s breasts or nipples and he doesn’t want any other actors to touch his breasts or nipples. “Any inspiration you think you can turn to has been checked and so they don’t have to worry about it. There is freedom [in that].”
Jenkins created a lot of laughs when he recounted sex scenes from decades ago. Jenkins says that when you watch 70s, 80s and 90s movies, “you watch these movies and the sex sucks. Too bad. It’s like, really, brah? This is how you think this needs to be shot and framed?