10 ways to film the perfect sex scene: From 'Bridgerton' to 'Moonlight', here's what they got right

You know what they say, less is always more, unless you're planning full-fledged erotica like the 2005 classic 'Pirates', here's how to get your freak on for the screen


                            10 ways to film the perfect sex scene: From 'Bridgerton' to 'Moonlight', here's what they got right
‎Regé-Jean Page and ‎Phoebe Dynevor in 'Bridgerton' (Netflix)

Shondaland's 'Bridgerton' was perhaps Netflix's biggest Christmas gift to its audience in the absolute wreck that was the year 2020. With an impeccable cast, and dramatic storylines, what made the series such an immaculate binge was the added bonus of sex scenes -- something no one saw coming. There was a certain delight, a step above guilty pleasure to watching Simon Basset and Daphne Bridgerton rolling in the grounds of Hastings castle, engaging in the carnal delights of stolen moments within the castle's library. And perhaps that's what's so iconic about sex scenes on the screen: the fine line between raunchy porn and realistic coyness when it comes to watching fictional lovers getting it on. But that is definitely not all it takes to film the best sex scenes, as the likes of 'Moonlight' and 'The Notebook' will have one convinced. Then what else does it take to film the perfect sex scene? Let's round it up here.

1. How crucial is the sex scene to the narrative?

The first step to ensuring a sex scene is played out to perfection has to be the relevance it carries. How important is showing the characters having sex to the narrative? In the case of the Oscar-winning 'Moonlight', the sex scene that became a massively touted aspect of the film was one that showed character development for the protagonist. After battling with his sexuality for years, Chiron's (Ashton Sanders) intimate moments with Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) define him accepting who he is, slipping in with ease into an identity of comfort and bliss. Once the filmmaker or screenwriter has these minute details worked out, filming the rest of the action is a matter of going with the flow. Not only does it having substance to the scene make for an aesthetically pleasing watch, but it's also way more organic than any unnecessary romp for the sake of it.

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2. Intimacy coordinator

HBO started something revolutionary and widely critically acclaimed when the network decided to hire an intimacy coordinator for the second season of 'The Deuce'. The step was taken in 2018, in the wake of the MeToo movement from 2017, which proved to be earth-shattering for the entire entertainment industry. These intimacy coordinators are basically supervisors who ensure sex scenes are filmed in an environment where actors feel comfortable. Ensuring the crew behaves professionally enough for actors to enact the exact vulnerability required to make for realistic lovemaking on screen, is the coordinator's job. When Alicia Rodis hopped on board as the intimacy coordinator for 'The Deuce', she wasn't just watching the monitor; the actors had pads for their knees to film oral sex scenes; mouth spray and flavored lubricants were allegedly offered between takes. Rodis even took the actors' personal concerns about filming intimate scenes to the director to ensure they were fully comfortable. Groundbreaking, right?

Jharell Jerome and Ashton Sanders in 'Moonlight' (IMDb)

3. Transparency

As important as it might seem to shed every last piece of clothing for some sex scenes, for absolutely all of them, shedding all the gray areas is of utmost importance. And this goes from the very initiation of an actor coming on board to film the scene - that is during the audition process, and later, explicitly in their contracts. Filmmakers need to be transparent from the get-go about how far they would like, or the scene would demand the actors to take things when it comes to sex. This applies especially in the case of sexual assault scenes on the screen, or those that demand absolute skin-to-skin contact with no crafty angles shielding actors from baring it all. 

4. Keeping the mood light

When Jamie Dornan filmed the 50 shades franchise, he was quite popular for his many jokes to keep the atmosphere light while his Christian Grey got all-dominating and sadistic with Dakota Johnson's Anastasia Steele. Come to think of it, what a way to reduce the pressure off the idea of millions of people watching you getting down and dirty with a stranger you'd most likely never interacted with before! It's one thing to pretend to have sex in front of the crew, but the nerves of knowing even your parents - or kids could watch it someday has to be next level. This is where the humor comes in handy, and if reports are to be believed, Dornan is a master at that game already.

 

The famous library oral sex scene from 'Bridgerton' (Netflix)

5. Is full frontal nudity a must?

One of the areas where 'Bridgerton' excelled was executing its sex scenes to perfection without so much as even two-percent nudity in 90 percent of the scenes. Sure there was some topless action between the main characters, but never for once did Netflix's desperate need to pull the target audience by flopping breasts at their face arise. There are several different ways to what experts would call 'cheating' a nude scene and 'Bridgerton' utilized every single one of them. Especially the angles – pure chef's kiss the way they shot everything for maximum impact with minimum exposure. In that, you could feel the passion but never feel flustered should anybody else happen to walk in on you watching Simon Basset go down on his wife in the middle of his estate. 

6. Duration of a sex scene

You know what they say - less is always more. Unless you're planning full-fledged erotica like the 2005 classic 'Pirates' or its subsequent sequel, sex scenes are always more meaningful the more you sprinkle in character arcs and plot development. Even 'Pirates' had a plot running smoothly throughout the course of the film, and the near porno adventure ride was easily more interesting than the Johnny Depp franchise if I dare say so myself. One of the classic examples of literally any and every sex scene working simply because of how short and crisp they are in the entire five-year-long run of 'Peaky Blinders'. And that against the long, rampant, incessant ones from 'Game of Thrones' really proves something. Fun as sexy times might be, incessantly long-running segments can be a bore to watch. Keep it short, keep it passionate. Nothing could go wrong.

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in '50 Shades of Grey' (IMDb)

7. Choreography and lighting

Known for his exceptional eye for detail, director David Fincher is reportedly extremely particular about having his actors rehearse their sex scenes down to the very last kisses. Be it camera angles, the amount of lighting needed to make naked bodies look aesthetic, or even the mere movement they exhibit - Fincher keeps it all planned in advance and one can't disagree that it doesn't work for his films. Be it the library sex scene in 'Gone Girl' or the one where Emily Ratajkowski gets on top of Ben Affleck and bares her breasts - in retrospect, the actors rehearsing that scene beforehand might seem funny, or even awkward to the not so mature mind, but hey - whatever makes for perfection in the final cut, right?

8. Set guidelines

This is perhaps the most crucial element to filming a sex scene. In the final season of the Showtime drama 'The affair', Dominic West's character can be seen getting thrown out of the set of a film based on his own life, all because he stormed into a sex scene in the middle of filming. Claes Bang's character was filming the scene wearing a prosthetic penis, while his female counterpart was fully nude. So naturally, nobody else was allowed inside the bedroom-type set except the crew members whose presence was absolutely necessary. Anybody who has no need in the set, shouldn't be present during the filming of those sequences. Period. 

Julianne Moore and Mark Wahlberg in 'Boogie Nights' (IMDb)

9. Keeping the writing minimal

This is almost like keeping the duration succinct, but maybe screenwriters should earnestly consider not writing every step of the way and let actors find their personal comforts and take the lead. The one film that comes to mind is 1997's 'Boogie Nights' where Mark Wahlberg's Dirk Diggler is a porn newbie about to make his debut opposite Julianne Moore's Amber. The sweet, sweet boy that Dirk is, he asked Amber for her comforts, the duration of sex she would prefer, the climax scene and where she would prefer he do it - everything. Albeit that was the process of filming a porno movie, but mainstream TV and film can always learn a little from the lack of writing required in staging a sex scene. Let the actors find their balance and lead, them being in charge of moments so vulnerable only seems fair.

10. Background score or ASMR?

Too much moaning? Too much panting? Or too much of that tacky love song that just simply butchered the whole romp you were so looking forward to? Striking a balance between using original soundtracks, or dirty songs, and the expected human grunts and sounds of pleasure can be difficult, but going full ASMR might not be the smartest thing to go for sex scenes. And when we say background score, it's not the vintage porn music either. It's hard not to resort to examples of 'Bridgerton' yet again, especially after they used orchestra rendition of popular hits like Taylor Swift's 'Wildest Dreams' to go with its sex scenes. Seriosuly, there's a lot to learn from 'Bridgerton'. If you love artsy sex scenes, give it a binge!

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