EDITOR’S NOTE: The following blog originally ran on filmindependent.org in 2014 and remains one of our most-read articles. We’re republishing it here, with minor edits to the original text. Special thanks to author Anthony Ferranti.
Okay we’re all adults here… right? We all understand that in the movie business, sex sells. But before audiences flock to the theaters or are titillated into a Twitter tidal wave by a trailer, even before the cameras roll on set, filmmakers and actors (with their agents close by, no doubt) need to come to an agreement about what exactly is happening in that nude scene on page 62 in the script. That agreement is known as the “nudity clause” or sometimes the “nudity rider.” We asked the good people at SAGindie, the outreach program that advises and educates producers on the theatrical low budget agreement, to shed some light on some of the most frequently asked questions about the nudity clause.
Are the descriptions of nudity and sex in a script sufficient detail to be transcribed into a rider or should the producer work out more specific details?
The producer should always, always explain in more detail: all of the action that’s going to occur, how it’s going to be shot, who’s going to be present—these details aren’t in a script. It’s also worth mentioning that when a nudity or sex scene is being shot, it must be done so on a closed set. And always have a designated robe person for in-between takes.
The film industry is inundated with all kinds of funny names for things. Is there an established vernacular one should use when describing forms of nudity and simulated sexual acts?
Not that we’re aware of. Just keep it as clean and as clinical as possible. And definitely avoid any tempting puns or jokes while you’re at it.
If the script goes through revisions after a nudity clause is agreed to, how does a producer need to proceed with the actor?
Just communicate the changes with everyone as far in advance of shooting the scene as possible. Contact your Business Representative. Contact the performer or the performer’s representatives. Explain the changes and why they’ve been made, then amend the rider and have everyone review and sign off again.
Does the clause need to define a difference between what will be shot and what will inevitably end up in the final edit?
The clause pertains to any and all nudity work being shot. What you end up using of the footage is really up to you. That said, you can’t falsely represent a performer’s nude body—i.e. digitally placing an actor’s head on another’s body.
Can the nudity section (section 43) of the SAG-AFTRA Basic Agreement serve as a sufficient contract agreement if both the producer and actor agree?
Section 43 does not serve as a sufficient contract between the performer and producer. Prior written consent of the performer is required in the form of a letter or rider that outlines the actions of the nudity or sex scene that will take place.
Can a producer draft the nudity rider or does the producer need to hire an entertainment lawyer to properly draft this additional contract agreement?
It’s always advisable to have a lawyer at least look over a rider or any other contract. When hiring a lawyer isn’t possible, the producer can draft it on his or her own. Ultimately the performer and the performer’s representation will need sign off on it.
Are there boilerplate contract forms or a standard way of drafting this additional contract clause? If so, is it available through SAG-AFTRA?
There’s a standard nudity clause provided by SAG-AFTRA that outlines everything. That said, there really isn’t a sample nudity rider that exists on SAG-AFTRA’s end. The best idea is to draft up exactly what’s going to take place and present it to your SAG-AFTRA Business Representative for review.
Do you need a nudity rider if there is a simulated sex act, but no actual nudity?
You’ll want to double check with your Business Representative, but if it’s a scene that could give a performer cold feet because of racy content, then getting something agreed upon and in writing will only benefit everyone.
What if your actor gets cold feet on the day you are scheduled to shoot the nude scene and decides to back out?
If a performer gets cold feet and decides not to do the scene, they have the right to do so. But the producer also has the right to hire a body double to replace the performer for that scene. That body double must sign a nudity rider and perform the scene exactly as outlined in the rider. But if a performer gets cold feet after the scene has been shot, they don’t have a right to keep the footage from being used.
One last note: producer discretion is advised. As every filmmaker is different, so is every film project. It’s highly advisable that producers go over everything regarding their film (nudity specifically) with their SAG-AFTRA Business Representative in great detail. They are the keepers of the contract and pretty much the law of the land as it pertains to the signatory process. SAGindie does not oversee, enforce, interpret or make assumptions on those contracts.