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.