Olivia Wilde wants to change the way sex scenes are filmed: 'Demand this new standard'

Olivia Wilde is using her experience in the film industry to change the game of directing, starting with prioritizing the comfort of actors — especially during scenes that require vulnerability.

The 35-year-old actress made her directorial debut with the 2019 release of Booksmart, which won the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. But during a conversation with Katie Couric on the 2020 MAKERS Conference stage, Wilde said that her work as a director is aimed at changing the environment that actors and crews work within and making it more comfortable and efficient.

“I learned that many of the parts of the system that we accept just to be true, the way a film set works, the hierarchy and how it exists are actually something — it’s something we have more control of than we assume,” she said. “So when I got onto a set, it’s like, okay, I’m finally steering this ship. Do I have to steer it the same way I’ve seen guys do it? Or can I do my own thing? I can do my own thing. So I’m going to change the way this usually works.”

And, although Wilde provided examples of how she set a new standard from day one of filming, her most important lesson came during a Booksmart sex scene. “I thought, okay, I’ll finally teach everyone what a closed set means. And I said to our actresses that are doing this intimate scene, ‘When you’re on your next film set, I want you to demand what I’m showing you today.’”

She went on to explain just how she made sure that only the essential people were on set, and even put in extra measures to ensure that security was maintained throughout filming the scene. “It takes a lot of effort, but it’s one example of providing an example of how things can be and telling these actresses, ‘Now go off and demand this new standard,” Wilde said. As a result, people had a better on-set experience.

“I loved the opportunity to use what I have learned and to make it a better environment for the actors as well,” she said.

Follow the 2020 Makers Conference at Makers.com.