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Roger Kunshick

My First Nude Scene
by Roger Kunshick

August 2000

Yep, that's right. It's true. I've displayed my naked flesh before the camera for all the world to see. It's a situation every actor will have to face sooner or later. "Will I do a nude scene?" It's your choice. You may decide not to for spiritual or philosophical reasons. You may decide not to because you are self-conscious about your body. But let's face it gang, acting is not a genteel sport. You've got to get down and dirty with your emotions if needed. As an actor you have to be prepared to portray the most intimate of scenes with a total stranger who you more than likely met only a few minutes ago.

For me, a lack of clothing seems to have followed me in my adventures in acting from the start. In one of my first acting classes my scene partner and I did a scene in our underwear in front of the class. Talk about a terrifying experience. I ran around topless in a tribal sarong in my first feature, "Attack of the Bat Monsters" in late autumn. Even for a guy, it gets a bit perky, ya know?

My first nude scene was in a graduate student film. It wasn't like the kind of soft-core type of crap they show on late night cable. Nor was it some sort of hard-core sleaze either. It was a short film with scenes that required nudity in some of the roles.

The film is about the illegitimate son of a whore house owner and the "best" whore who are in love with each other. They're getting ready to split to start a new life together somewhere far away when a sleazy stranger appears at the last minute, wanting "the best", (that's me. Mr. Sleazy.), and she has to go through with this final act of humiliation in order for them to escape. The nude scene consisted of several brief shots of us "doing it", intercut with the son's anguish ridden face and the evil visage of his "father" laughing like satan himself. It's a rather effective and powerful piece of filmmaking.

Why do a nude scene? Particularly about such intense circumstances? Well, for me, it was that I was just curious to see if I could perform this type of scene while maintaining my own professional, not to mention, manly, composure. When you get down to it, I'm actually pretty shy. (Although you probably won't believe me after you read the rest of this.)

I agreed to do the role only if my scene partner and I felt comfortable about working with each other. I met with her at one of the film's production meetings. The director went over the scene with us, explaining what each shot was in specific detail, the length of each take, and how the shot would appear in the final film. My future scene parnter and I spent the next hour or so talking about life, acting, and generally getting to know each other. In the end, we felt comfortable enough with each other to do the scene.

Her boyfriend had his own concerns. He was very uncomfortable with the though of his lover doing a nude scene with another man, for obvious reasons, and called the set a number of times to find out if the scene had been shot yet. So keep in mind that even if you feel comfortable about doing a nude scene, your spouse or significant other may have some major problems with it.

The film was shot at a Victorian style farm house outside of Austin. We did the nude scene at 3:00 a.m. one morning at the end of a long night's shoot. Everybody was pretty exhausted by that time, except me. I had a 2:00 a.m. call and was able to get a few winks before heading out to the set, so I was merely pooped during the proceedings.

The mood on the set was lighthearted considering we were filming such an intense scene. It was a closed set, shot MOS, with only us, the director and cameraman present. There were no lewd or vulgar remarks made during the shoot. The scene was shot as we had discussed, quickly and in professional manner.

One of the first shots in the scene required me to sit on the edge of the bed and have my fly opened on camera. All I had to do was just sit there on the edge of the bed and let the beautiful actress unzip my fly and retain my composure. Pretty simple right? Wrong!

The bed we were on was some sort of homemade contraption that was bolted into the wall and was much higher off the floor than a normal bed would've been. It was high up enough so that sitting on the edge, even my long legs couldn't quite reach the floor. As it turned out, "all I had do" to sell the shot was to sit on the edge of the bed while hanging on to the covers with my hands for dear life while precariously balancing on my tip-toes in order to keep from sliding off and landing on top of my scene partner while looking natural and comfortable as she unzipped my fly with the camera stuck in close-up on my crotch. As it turned out, maintaining my manly composure ended up being the easiest part of that shot.

Of course, as an actor, you'll have to learn how to perform the "Money Shot." That's right. It means exactly what you think it does. We drew the missionary position. When you see the brief shot of us "doing it" in the film it looks convincing enough. But in reality, our naughty bits were separated by a conveniently hidden towel.

Like what the big movie stars say on the teevee when they talk about their nude scenes: "It's all really very Mechanical." In fact, my lovely scene partner's nakedness was obscured by my own nudity. Remember folks, this isn't supposed to be an erotic or passionate scene, that's why you're stuck with my ass in your face and not hers.

And I think that most actresses are exceptionally vulnerable during the filming scenes like this. So if you are ever in this type of scene, treat her with respect and make it about caring for her. Let the script do the work for you, especially when the script contains intense circumstances like this one did.

In the event your scene requires intimate touching and caressing, take the time to discuss with your partner what both of you consider to be appropriate, or not, within the context of the scene. A short discussion can keep both of you out trouble.

Once my partner had slipped into her birthday suit and moved the itty-bitty towel into position, I slid into place and we waited for the director to, well...direct. (Handy tip: Guys, take a moment to discretely adjust your manhood to a comfortable location so you won't end up limiting your future acting career to those roles involving sopranos.)

"Okay, Roger, we can see her breasts, move your left arm up so they're not in the shot." Yeah, that's it." "Okay, lower your pants." "Okay, your arm moved, move it back a bit." "That's fine." "Okay, pull your pants down further." "How's it look in the finder?" "She needs to open her legs a bit more." "Open your legs a little more." Looks okay." "Move to your right a little." "Roger, the pants need to be down further." "Roger, move your right leg in some." "Great." "How's the lighting?" "Okay, you two hold your positions while we adjust the lighting."

And so, there we were, totally naked, except for my pants down around my legs and a teeny towel between us, frozen uncomfortably in place, locked in some bizarre yoga position that most people would never assume even while engaged in the kinkiest of sex, amiably chatting about the business, the weather, and whatever, while our arms and legs are about to break and fall off like cheap porcelain statues. (This set up looks totally natural on film, of course.) Then, finally, we were good to go.

"Okay, Roger, I want you to thrust three times and pause." "Camera...Action..." "Okay, one more time..." Uh...oh... "Great. We need another angle." "Okay, thrust again..." I think... "Let's get this one more time...Camera...Action...Thrust!" I've got... "Okay, we're done." ...some wood...

Bomba-bomb-bomb-bomb-bomba-bomb-bomb! Bomba-bomb-bomb-bomb-bomba-bomb-bomb! All I could think of as we separated and slid into our respective undies was that theme from "Star Trek" they always played when Captain Kirk was about to get some or was in the thick of hand-to-hand combat. Bomba-bomb-bomb-bomb-bomba-bomb-bomb!

So, there we stood for a moment. I didn't have a clue of how to handle this potentially embarrassing moment. She realized my condition, gave me a friendly smile, I accepted the compliment in the manner in which it was given, smiled back, and then blushed as red as red can be as I pulled up my slacks and made some effort to recover my composure.

In the long run, I'm not really embarrassed about it. I'm just thankful she didn't point at my crotch and fall to the floor in a fit of hysterical laughter. It's just a job hazard that the male actor can experience if he's going to do this kind of scene. Believe me, there's worse things that can happen to you in life. If you don't trust my judgement, check out the Cancer or AIDS wards at your local hospital. Those poor folks are enduring a hell of a lot worse.

At this point, if you've been reading this expecting something along the lines of Mickey Rourke and Carrie Otis, (allegedly) doing "it" on camera, or Brando buttering Schneider, you're probably pretty disappointed. If you were curious about what it's like to do a nude scene in the course of performing a role, then hopefully you've gotten an impression of what the experience like.

When you get down to it, doing a nude scene isn't that different from doing any other scene. It's all about trust and faith in your partner. It's just that you're naked. Just like on the day you were born. We're not sticks and hay and bailing wire under our clothes, you know. We're human beings.

And as human beings we bare our souls in everyday life. People see right through us and know who we are every day. There's no disguising it. If you suspect you might be an asshole, don't worry. Everybody already knows you are one.

As actors we bear our souls and emotions on screen and stage in our art to enlighten, nourish, and yes, even entertain our fellow human beings. Through the tools of drama, pathos, and humor we explore what it means to be human, warts and all. And once you've shown your heart and soul to the world, there's not really that much you have left to hide.

Doing a nude scene is up to you. Only you can decide for yourself. If there's any reason you feel hesitant about doing it, that it's against your personal beliefs, that you think it would cause problems with your spouse, or that it's simply a bad film career move, then by all means don't do the scene. But if you feel comfortable with the script, the professionalism of your director, and especially the professionalism of your scene partner, by all means go for it. Hop on in, the water's fine.

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