As I teased in my first article, after opening myself up to getting emotionally naked, I then had the opportunity to get actually naked when I was offered a supporting role in a feature. I knew the producer and as we talked about the role, he brought up the nudity, I read the script and knew I was game. I want to share my experience with both the creation of a nudity rider (part 1) which you should always have for any scene with nudity and/or simulated sex and the actual shooting of this type of scene (part 2).
I’ve never had a problem with nudity…maybe the years of dance created a level of comfort with my body but I credit my 2 years in conservatory at the Neighborhood Playhouse with my view of nudity as an artistic tool. At the Playhouse, I studied with some incredible people but it was my first year teacher, Gary Kingston, who sticks in my mind because he schooled us in the importance of “as if” and “doing the doing”. This meant that if you were doing an exercise where you would be naked in real life (aka coming home after being raped and needing to shower so you could go to your engagement brunch…yep I totally did that melodramatic exercise) then you needed to do it in the room. It was a joke at school that by the time you graduated everyone had seen everyone else naked and it was no big deal. The beauty of this way of working and this quick but sturdy enactment of the 4th wall was that any hesitation or body hang-up I had about people seeing me naked was quickly dropped in favor of honoring the character and what was true to the story.
From this, my Yes/No lines were pretty easily established. If nudity, simulated sex, drug use, profanity, dubious moral qualities et cetera were required to tell the story and it was a story I wanted to be a part of telling….then it was a YES. Everything else is a NO. I made sure I knew exactly what I was comfortable with before I, or my team, ever submit for something and anytime there is something that I’m unsure of…I get a script and I see if it’s a story I want to tell. It’s pretty simple and to me feels very black and white. I think this is because I am so upfront with where I stand about what I will and will not do and I’m confident in standing my ground. I’ve found this to be something people always respect and if they don’t, it’s a pretty good determinant that we wouldn’t have worked well together anyways.
After saying yes to the producer and committing to the feature, I would now have to create my rider as this was my first time with on-screen nudity. Before I go any further I want to make sure that I say that I’m not a lawyer and this is just my experience and what I did. I do encourage you to always have someone with legal expertise examine any and all contracts before you sign them….especially if you have drawn them up yourself.
The first thing I did, since I am currently unrepped, was contact a few friends who are assistants at some of the bigger agencies to see if they could help me out by sending templates or redacted examples of their clients and this was an extremely helpful starting point. If you do have rep, they should have experience with creating a rider and because they know you and are helping guide your career, they’ll have a good sense of how to customize a rider for you and the particular project. Now because my rider was just for a few scenes where I would either be topless or giving the appearance of nudity, I ignored the sections of the riders that talked about simulated sex but the same general rules apply with the addition of what will be seen when simulation occurs, for how long, what type of shot…the very technical stuff that protects you both while you are shooting and what appears in the final product.
As a union member, I also checked in with SAG as well as with friends in casting to get their advice on rider standards. It was easy once I had a template to customize based on my already established YES/NO lines and then could add in the details with things like who is financially responsible if the contract is broken (make sure to name the producers individually and not just the production company for example), what I would specifically be wearing in each scene, what happened to the raw material as well as not allowing still photos or video that wasn’t the filming of the scene for the feature and that the material couldn’t be used for promotional purposes without my express written consent.
A really important part of any rider is to include the pages of the script that you are committing to shooting so that when the day comes if somehow the scene is different aka topless nudity to full frontal, you have the legal protection to say no because it’s not what you committed to when you signed your contract. I find that professionals are more than happy to do this kind of thing because they get it and it’s normal with these types of jobs. They understand legal protections, they’ve done this before and they’re not skeevy…they want you to feel comfortable and safe so that you can show up on set and do your job which just happens to include nudity that day.
I hope that helps with the process of creating a nudity rider and next article…I’ll share what it was like during filming.