Unless you’re working exclusively in children’s content, sooner or later you might have to deal with a role involving nudity. As awkward as that might seem for you, imagine how difficult it can before for the actor. It’s the very definition of vulnerability!
Meg Morman and Sunny Boling of Morman Boling Casting have more than 100 films to their credit. Here they give us advice on how to professionally handle these delicate situations.
1. The Implication
Filmmaking is all about creating a convincing illusion of reality. Use that movie magic to your advantage! Boling explains that the number of people willing to do nudity usually isn’t large.
“When you ask people to do that you’re limiting your selection, sometimes down to just a couple actors,” she says. “However, if you’re just implying nudity — using creative shot selection and blocking to suggest nudity without actually ‘giving up the goods’ — you’ll get a much wider range of choices.”
2. Money Talks
Boling says that “in instances where nudity is required, we like to pay a decent amount of money. That helps.” Performing a nude scene can be very challenging, so it’s only reasonable to compensate your actors for going the extra mile.
But cash isn’t the only compensation artists are looking for. Sometimes the opportunity to play a great role or work with a talented collaborator can sweeten the pot. Morman says, “If you’re not paying a ton of money but the actor is going to be in a scene with an Oscar winner, that could be a different story.” So always consider things from your actor’s perspective and try to find ways to incentivize them.
3. Topless Auditioning?
So what’s the protocol for the casting process itself? You can’t have your performers walking around in the buff. “A good compromise for casting nudity is to have them audition in a bathing suit,” says Boling. “Never ask them to fully disrobe.”
“Unless you’re paying a ton of money,” adds Morman.
“Yeah. It’s always different if you are paying a ton of money.”
4. Creative Casting
Depending on the requirements of the role, you might want to extend you search beyond the traditional casting avenues. Exotic dancers, adult film actors, and some models might be much more comfortable with nudity than your typical actor.
“In one movie where we needed a woman to be nude,” Morman explains, ”not only did we pay more money, we hired a adult film star. It was a very challenging role and she did not care at all. She walked in and just slipped her top off.”
5. Smart Scheduling
Once you’ve cast your performer and they’ve agreed to do disrobe for the scene, you still aren’t in the clear. Stripping down to your birthday suit on a movie set can still be very intimidating, and many actors get cold feet when the moment of truth finally arrives. Morman offers an important piece of production advice to avoid disaster:
“Shoot anything with sex or nudity at the beginning of your schedule. First day, first thing. The actor could change their mind and back out, and if you’ve already shot a bunch of other scenes with them, they’re established in the film at point and they can’t be replaced.”
For more insights from Meg and Sunny, check out this interview they did with us last year.
And for more great advice on all aspects of independent filmmaking, keep reading the Lunacy Blog!