Under new guidelines CGI recommended for sex scenes

(Wild Things, 1998)

Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Dept. of Public Health announced that the state, under certain conditions, can reopen for film production on June 12. That is great news for all in the film, TV and advertising industries. But what do these new conditions mean specifically for performers?

We reported last month, that Warner Bros execs held a virtual meeting to discuss exactly that. So many of the series on the CW are superhero shows which require performers and stunt people to be in close proximity of each other for fighting and intimate scenes. In the new age of COVID-19, how will they manage that? Will the Flash talk Reverse Flash out of causing some sort of time disaster. Will Barry just wave at Iris and say, “I love you?”

Subscribe: Sign up for our FREE e-lert here.  Stay on top of the latest advertising, film, TV, entertainment and production news!

The AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) has released a 22-page guideline for casts and crews to consider when filming. To reduce the risk of transmission during intimate scenes, the guidelines suggest consideration of, “measures to minimize scenes with close contact between performers, such as amending scripts or use of digital effects.”

This would would pose a whole new challenge for CGI and savvy audiences. CGI of course has been used in action and superhero films (unless you’re Tom Cruise) for some time. Spider-man as we know it could not exist on screen without CGI manipulation.

And visual effects have been used to enhance nude scenes for years. There was Lena Headey’s infamous walk of shame in Game of Thrones.

ALSO READ: Paper scripts could go away under production guidelines

And CGI was used to make Jessica Alba appear naked in Machete:

VFX Specialists React

Reel 360 reached out to some of the most respected VFX people in the industry to see what they thought about the proposition of using digital for intimate scenes.

Jerry Spivack

Jerry Spivack, who is the Creative Director & VFX Supervisor at SHIPPING + HANDLING had this to say to Reel 360, “Is it possible to make a believable love scene using CGI? That’s a good question during these unprecedented times. The short answer in my opinion is yes, but I believe the way these scenes are shot or perceived to be shot will change so we can make the best of this technology. Currently body and head scans look completely believable and photo real. That is a good start.”

Spivack added, “Capturing the motion of two people moving and interacting together in an organic smooth unforced way will be the most challenging aspect for sure. Utilizing motion capture with actors in suites that protect themselves may be a good option to capture the smooth organic body movement needed. Fortunately, we work in a VFX industry were we can do just about anything with the proper team, time and budget and make it look completely believable.”

Sven Dreesbach

Award-winning filmmaker, Sven Dreesbach, who is also Creative Director of Revolūtiō Creative, offered this opinion, “CGI for love scenes? Animating bodies making out or having sex? Sounds like a business idea for the adult film industry to me. But seriously, I doubt full scale CGI will be worth the effort in most cases, as it is just very expensive, particularly creating realistic human emotion. But no doubt some use will come in handy in support of smart framing/editing/compositing, it just won’t replace entire scenes every day due to the complexity.“

Other recommendations from the guidelines include:

  • Whenever possible, performers shall practice physical distancing.
  • When maintaining physical distancing is not possible (e.g., between a performer and make-up artist) and the performer cannot wear appropriate PPE, contact must be kept to the shortest amount of time possible, and the other cast or crew member must wear appropriate PPE and observe hand hygiene practices.
  • The number of people involved in close proximity with a performer should be kept to a minimum whenever possible. If a performer requires work by more than one make-up artist/hairstylist, make-up artists/ hairstylists should observe appropriate PPE requirements, and both performer and make-up artist/hairstylist should observe hand hygiene practices immediately after completing the task.
  • Stand-ins should wear face coverings even if the performer they are standing in for may not.
  • When possible, adjust shooting schedules to minimize the amount of back-and-forth travel needed by performers.
  • Visitors should be limited unless their presence is absolutely necessary. If visitors must come, they will be subject to the same guidance as cast and crew, including, but not limited to, symptom screening and/or temperature screening, and PPE requirements.
  • When performers are in a holding area, waiting to be used in a production, employers and performers must adhere to the recommendations outlined herein, including recommendations regarding physical distancing and the use of PPE.

California currently has 131,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus COVID-19. The death total is 4,653.


Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at colin@reel360.com or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1