Here Is Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Nudity Contracts

 ”I honestly don’t understand the big fuss made over nudity and sex in films. It’s silly.-Sharon Tate

“I will show side boob for three seconds in a moving shot. I will show the left cheek from the left side in a dim light.”  This was said by actress Emmy Rossum recently when she was discussing her nudity contract in an Emmy Roundtable for The Hollywood Reporter. Rossum’s character on the series Shameless, Fiona Shaw,  shows quite a lot of skin in every episode and she was discussing her initial contract when the show started. “I have a lot of control over what I want to show, when I want to show it and when I don’t want to show it.” When asked if she’s in constant negotiation with showrunner John Wells about nudity issues, Rossum responded: “Not at all. But originally, when they made the contract it was like, ‘You will show partial side boob, you will show two cheeks … .’”

For actresses the nudity contract or rider is extremely important. Showing nudity in a film can make or break a career. And with so many women using nudity to and sex leverage or just start their careers (hello Kim Kardashian) for a real actress, having control of their body in a film is essential. Actress January Jones said during the discussion, “The only way to do those scenes is to have control. What I’m comfortable with….” This is an important issue for women in Hollywood in preventing exploitation, which so often happens in that industry. We decided to talk to some legal experts about what exactly goes into these contracts.

Roger Goff and Neal Tabachnik are both partners at Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman and Rabkin. They gave the lowdown on Nudity Riders to The Grindstone. The real issue here is that nudity and sex are an important part of the film business, they said. “The discussion of that issue is often focused on the creative aspects of telling the story, and while there is a lot of legitimacy to that point most of the time, there is also the pure prurient aspect of it.  No actor wants to base a career solely on the appearance of his or her body, but their physical attractiveness is often an inseparable part of their professional appeal.  The truth is that many people want to see the majority of actors because they are physically attractive in addition to being superior actors,” said Goff.

In order for the actor to be able to appear nude when it is appropriate, but maintain his or her professional credibility and standing, the amount, degree and nature of his or her nude appearances must be carefully controlled.  “While a producer is normally interested in making as much money as possible from a film, the film is only one step in the career of the actors who appear in it.  They (and their professional representatives) cannot allow the desires of a producer for short term profit to cause a negative long term impact on their viability and market value as an actor.  That is the true role of the nudity rider in Hollywood.  It is the vehicle by which actors are able to give producers what is needed in terms of nudity and sexual content in order to tell stories and attract audiences, without the actor suffering long-term professional detriment as a result of the process getting out of control,” said Tabachnik.
The requirements and controls for having actors appear nude in film and television are very well-established.  Section 43 of the SAG Basic Agreement is the starting point for all negotiations in this regard.  That section reads as follows:
A. The Producer’s representative will notify the performer (or his representative) of any nudity or sex acts expected in the role (if known by management at the time) prior to the first interview or audition. The performer shall also have prior notification of any interview or audition requiring nudity and shall have the absolute right to have a person of the performer’s choice present at that audition. Total nudity shall not be required at such auditions or interviews; the performer shall be permitted to wear “pasties” and a G-string or its equivalent.
B. During any production involving nudity or sex scenes, the set shall be closed to all persons having no business purpose in connection with the production.
C. No still photography of nudity or sex acts will be authorized by the Producer to be made without the prior written consent of the performer.
D. The appearance of a performer in a nude or sex scene or the doubling of a performer in such a scene shall be conditioned upon his or her prior written consent. Such consent may be obtained by letter or other writing prior to a commitment or written contract being made or executed. Such consent must include a general description as to the extent of the nudity and the type of physical contact required in the scene. If a performer has agreed to appear in such scenes and then withdraws his or her consent, Producer shall have the right to double, but consent may not be withdrawn as to film already photographed. Producer shall also have the right to double children of tender years (infants) in nude scenes (not in sex scenes).”
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    • Namnoot

      Interesting to see that none of the actresses quoted here discuss the actual “sex acts” they’re required to show. Section 43, contrary to what some people say, does not prohibit full unsimulated sex acts from taking place. How much control does, say, Emmy have over thrusting, the depiction of certain sex acts, etc? Nudity is old hat; what actresses (and actors) need to be very concerned about is that the level of explicitness in TV and film has reached a point where the next step up from Sense8′s strap-on scene and Girls’ ejaculation and “ass motorboat” scenes are hardcore. We’ve already seen the Nymphomaniac movie prove using digital that the actresses themselves don’t have to engage, they can just pop their heads on another brave soul’s body after. Just as Lena Headey was able to do her nude Game of Throne march without really stripping off. If they’re not worried about this, they should be. And if you don’t think it’ll happen, compare the overabundance of sexually explicit series on the air now (outside the US mainstream commercial networks is there even a single sci-fi or action series NOT called Doctor Who that isn’t loaded to the gills with sex, forcing families to stick with Doctor Who and reruns of old shows if they want to enjoy entertainment together?) to the way things were 10 years ago. I like sex scenes as much as the next red-blooded guy. But it’s gone too far and if they’re not careful someone’s going to force a new Hays Code and we’ll snap back to the days when you couldn’t even say the word “pregnant” on TV.

    • Namnoot

      Interesting to see that none of the actresses quoted here discuss the actual “sex acts” they’re required to show. Section 43, contrary to what some people say, does not prohibit full unsimulated sex acts from taking place. How much control does, say, Emmy have over thrusting, the depiction of certain sex acts, etc? Nudity is old hat; what actresses (and actors) need to be very concerned about is that the level of explicitness in TV and film has reached a point where the next step up from Sense8′s strap-on scene and Girls’ ejaculation and “ass motorboat” scenes are hardcore. We’ve already seen the Nymphomaniac movie prove using digital that the actresses themselves don’t have to engage, they can just pop their heads on another brave soul’s body after. Just as Lena Headey was able to do her nude Game of Throne march without really stripping off. If they’re not worried about this, they should be. And if you don’t think it’ll happen, compare the overabundance of sexually explicit series on the air now (outside the US mainstream commercial networks is there even a single sci-fi or action series NOT called Doctor Who that isn’t loaded to the gills with sex, forcing families to stick with Doctor Who and reruns of old shows if they want to enjoy entertainment together?) to the way things were 10 years ago. I like sex scenes as much as the next red-blooded guy. But it’s gone too far and if they’re not careful someone’s going to force a new Hays Code and we’ll snap back to the days when you couldn’t even say the word “pregnant” on TV.