This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
I think I heard Philip Seymour Hoffman say it in an interview once, but somehow failed to realize that "the opportunities" he was referring to were Boogie Nights and The Big Lebowski.
Nevertheless, I met my good friend Steve through this block-headed methodology after auditioning for the lead part in his independent short, 102 Punks.
102 Punks (Trailer)Selfish Productions | Narcity
One of the requirements I had to check "yes" to before being cast was being comfortable shooting sex scenes. Being the enlightened 22-year-old that I was, I eagerly agreed to the monumental ask.
Was it an incredibly naive thing to do? Yes. But, to be honest, I don't regret doing it because it taught me a lot — and by "a lot," I mean these five things:
Make sure you're in a professional environment with good people
Patrick on set.
ACTRA is a union that supports Canadian actors. If you're a part of it, your likelihood of encountering an unprofessional set goes way down, especially when a sex scene is involved.
I, however, was neither part of the unionm nor working on what you would call a "professional set" when I was shooting 102 Punks. But, that's not to say it was a bad environment.
The people I was working with were recent graduates of the Toronto Film School who were hungry to prove that they could be as organized as the real thing, without the money.
Not only that, but they were overwhelmingly kind and generous, which I would argue are the type of people you want surrounding you when you strip down to your underwear.
In fact, my fictional grandpa Max Fightmaster once said to me, "Patrick, no one shoots two sex scenes in a row without a little help from their friends."
He was right. He always is.
A sense of humour is key
Sex is weird. It's so strange that our brains have to release a cocktail of chemicals every time we're about to do the deed, just to make it seem normal — so, yeah, intercourse is a pretty bizarre thing to mime.
The only way my scene partners and I could normalize the experience was by making fun of it. If we were laughing, we were alright. Thankfully, there was also enough downtime before we shot to get to know everyone and choreograph what was comfortable for those participating.
Humour is my go-to defence mechanism anyway, but having scene partners that were willing to interact with me on a human-to-human level beforehand made things feel much less stressful.
In fact, I think filming a sex scene may be the best example of something you should take very seriously while simultaneously not taking yourself seriously at all.
I can only imagine the train wreck that would've occurred if we had all decided to stay in character the whole time.
Be overly kind throughout the whole process
On the shooting day.
If there is ever a time when people being overly kind to you is not annoying in the slightest, it's when you're fake humping someone in a room full of strangers.
As I mentioned above, our crew was made up of young go-getters who treated our tiny film like it was the big time. So, there was no shortage of friendly faces for me to make awkward, accidental eye contact with.
They were an eager group quick to address any concerns the actors may have had. I can't say their kindness made the whole thing feel less weird, but it took some of the anxiety and shame out of it, which is a huge accomplishment as far as I am concerned.
Embrace body positivity
Have you ever noticed how every actor who takes their clothes off on screen always appears to be in great shape? It's not a coincidence. Most of the time, they have seen the movie script long before filming and have paid a fortune to a professional trainer to help them achieve a chiseled appearance.
I had no such luxuries going into my sex scene. Like it or not, I was going to look like me, which at the time was a 160 pound, shockingly hairy, 6'2 dude who was "pretty underweight," according to his family doctor.
Right or wrong, this diagnosis made me feel wimpy and put me in no rush to take my clothes in front of everyone. However, being a man of my word, I knew I would have to.
I dreaded the moment for weeks on end, and when it finally arrived, I stripped down and — no one reacted. It was bliss.
My celebration of a non-reaction may seem strange to you. But, the truth is, I'd built the moment up to be such an event in my head that when it happened and the entire crew didn't explode in shock, I felt oddly calm.
In fact, I've never worried about my body in the same way since.
Always get paid upfront
I hope you've enjoyed my tale of how a scrappy, amateur film crew conquered the odds and created a great work environment because I'm about to ruin it.
No one paid me. All the other actors were compensated for their work. However, some shady dealings with the person funding the project made me miss out on the gravy train.
Heck, I didn't even know I was supposed to be on it until Steve, the director, brought it up years later over some pints. The producer had told him he'd paid me $500, which I guess must've gotten lost in the mail.
So, despite all my good experiences and how lucky I got with the crew and director. I do recommend that young actors avoid doing intimate work for any gig that isn't under ACTRA's protection.
Frankly, the chances of you having as comfortable of an experience as I had are slim without the union's seal of approval.
Hopefully, my retelling of this experience has offered you a glimpse into the weirder side of Toronto's film industry. The process of filming a sex scene is really not as sleazy, or as exciting, as it could seem when you get into the brass tax of it.