Lights, Camera…Drop Your Top: Nudity In Film

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Are there lasting consequences for an actress who reveals too much of her body or alternatively not enough of her body on film?

Deciding whether or not to perform in various states of undress can be a moral dilemma for many actresses struggling to build film credits and create a career for themselves in Hollywood.

The choice is a deeply personal decision. The following is a takeaway from my perspective as a director who just shot a feature film that contained both nudity and simulated sex.

Because I also wrote the screenplay I knew that each moment in the script that contained nudity or any sexual act was placed there strategically as it moved the story forward and was pivotal to the proper telling of the narrative. There was nothing gratuitous about the nudity or simulated sex.

This being said, let’s talk about the casting process when searching for actresses who were willing to bare it all for a chance at a lead role in a feature film.

I write dark dramatic pieces that are female driven — complicated, delicate, yet portray strong-willed and somewhat self-destructive female characters. The kind of roles any serious dramatic actress would be thrilled for a chance at and subsequently, a string of eager hopefuls poured through the doors of the casting studio…

To clarify, each and every young woman who came into audition was well aware that this role contained nudity. This was a fact that was clearly stated in the breakdown. For those who are unfamiliar with the term “breakdown”, it is a casting notice that alerts managers, agents and actors as to current movie and TV projects and the perspective roles that are being cast around town.

We were very specific in what we were looking for from the actress to fill the role. There were no secrets or surprises.

The audition piece that the actresses were asked to perform for the audition was one of the most challenging scenes in the film. A scene that took the actress through wide ranges of emotions and would ultimately leave her in tears on the floor.

It was necessary to see who could not only handle the material but who was willing to go to that emotionally and physically vulnerable place. A task that would be difficult for even the most seasoned actress.

One by one I watched as the auditioning actresses interpreted the scene in their own unique way. There were a few inspiring and wonderful performances, but mostly people were unprepared, not suited for the material and fell flat… however, there was one common theme throughout the day – almost every girl asked about the nudity.

“How will you shoot the nudity?”

“Will it just be my boobs or everything?”

“Is it just the front or back too?”

And then came the kicker…  in at least three separate instances that I can recall, the actress announced to me that she was unwilling to do any nudity, but wanted to read for the role regardless as they knew they could nail the role and I would surely make an exception to the nudity rule in exchange for amazing acting.

The answer to that is/was and always will be a fully resounding “no.” If you can’t commit to the role as written, then your artistic performance probably wasn’t as amazing as you thought. Sorry.

If the true definition of art is the “application of human creative skill and imagination” and is meant to provoke an emotional response from the audience, then stepping up to the ledge and looking over the side is simply not enough. You gotta jump.

Meaning, if you are an artist, there is no room for only going halfway. If you want an acting role in which to showcase your true ability as a performance artist – then go for it! Draw us in with your humanity and realism – not with your “play acting”.

The actress who was given the role delivered a truly fearless performance. She went to that deep emotional place without fear of judgment or consequence. She and I spent a lot of time together prepping the role before we shot the film and in that time we were able to create a bond in which I believe she trusted my instincts. She knew that I had her best interest at heart and knew that every moment would be shot with sensitivity and care. In return, I trusted that she was going to deliver a raw, uninhibited performance.

In the end, her performance was unparalleled and one that I believe will be life and career changing for her in all the best ways once the film is released.

So are there consequences, negative or positive in choosing to appear naked on film?

Some of the feedback I received when interviewing young women for my film was that they had concerns that appearing topless or nude on film would hurt their chances of booking other parts in other films. Well, if history is any prediction of the future, the legendary movie career of Marilyn Monroe continued well past Playboy Magazines first-ever “Sweetheart of the Month” nude pictorial featuring Marilyn that was published in 1953.

Be true to yourself. The decision is solely your own.

 

Robin Bain

About Robin Bain

Writer, director and producer, ROBIN BAIN holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theater from the University of Southern California. Bain began her career behind the camera in commercial production working as a freelance production coordinator for multi-million dollar TV commercials. Bain went on to direct and produce music videos, most notably for members of the winners of NBC’s “AMERICA’S NEXT BAND,” SON’S OF SYLVIA and for the lead singer of heavy metal band, IN THIS MOMENT. Robin Bain has written, directed and produced five short films that have screened at film festivals worldwide. Her short film, PAPER DOLL received nominations for BEST DIRECTOR, BEST ACTRESS and a win for BEST SHORT at the SMMASH FILM FESTIVAL. In 2013, Bain was credited as a writer on the feature film, POP STAR, which premiered on the LIFETIME MOVIE NETWORK. Bain wrote, directed and produced her first feature film NOWHERELAND in 2015.

  • Joe War

    Awesome! Very well done!

    • Robin Bain

      Thanks Joe!

  • Roxanne Shane

    Great article from an interesting perspective. I have been following the movie Nowhereland and can’t wait to see it.

    • Robin Bain

      Thank you!

  • Steve

    I would really love to see the script and final product for this film. As a man, I appreciate nudity in a film, but the number of times it’s has been absolutely crucial to a film is relatively small. I found your dismissal of the actresses that refused to bare for the camera and that were engaging in “play acting” extremely pretentious. It became more so after looking through your “credits” on IMDB.

    You have an awfully high view of your writing having only written a few things and directed fewer. Your acting career seems to mostly be playing a large breasted woman, which you appear to be very skilled at.

    I am curious to see how this film turns out, and to see how crucial the nudity is. I just wonder what your view is on famous actresses that don’t bare all. I’m curious if your dismissal of the never nude actresses was just the ones that auditioned for you knowing there’s nudity, or all actresses that don’t do nudity.

    I think many times it would be more interesting and more challenging to find raw emotion in a character without being able to rely on taking their clothes off and allowing the audience to see them naked. It seems to me that the baring is a ploy for the audience. As long as it’s clear that the character is naked on screen in the presence of another character for emotional payoff, isn’t that the point?

    Again, I will need to see the film in order to have a more educated opinion on the scene or scenes in question.

    • Robin Bain

      Hi “Steve”!

      Thanks for your thoughts. I wish I knew who I was actually responding too, however, I understand it’s much easier to make low jabs at people regarding playing “large breasted women” and relying on dated internet research when you remain anonymous.

      As you mentioned, you have not read the script nor seen the film, so your judgment is very limited. I shoot documentary style and therefor any nudity that may be captured on film, would be specifically capturing the actor “living their life in that moment”. I believe it is important to NOT shy away from that and it’s my preference as a director to not shoot around it.

      I take no issue with any actor who doesn’t “bare it all” – as mentioned in the article, it’s a personal choice and certainly not necessary in most films. In my film, NOWHERELAND, I felt it was necessary to capture the raw, reality of this particular story as we followed our protagonist on her journey.

      And yes, I did take issue with actresses who came into the audition knowing what the material was and then announcing that they were not willing to go there. That’s a waste of my time and theirs, and, in my opinion, quite pretentious on their part. If you don’t want to do it, don’t read for the role. No problem and no judgement from me! There are hundreds of others in line behind you.

      You’ve brought up some interesting and valid points, but the mean spiritedness of your writing only leads mean to believe that I might have a potential “hater” on my hands, which is actually quite exciting. I’m glad I could evoke that kind of emotion in 1000 words or less. And yes, I am somewhat pretentious about my writing. You nailed it.

      Thanks again “Steve”, will look forward to your thoughtful feelings on my film once it is released!

      Take care.