Working in the nude is, from time to time, part of life when It comes to working as a professional actor. Of course, some actors choose not to participate in such work, but one the easiest ways to make an informed decision about this type of work is to know what to expect.
While an actor who hasn’t yet done’ this sort of work may assume that working in the nude necessary means doing a scene they find distasteful or inappropriately sexual, this is far from always the case. Nudity may be a critical non-sexual plot point (i.e., the photography subjects in the forthcoming film about Diane Arbus’ life, Fur) or necessary to represent a scenario accurately (a crime scene).
An actor should be assured that scenes involving nudity are generally filmed on a “closed set” – meaning that only those members of the crew who absolutely need to be there to get the shot filmed are present. A robe is always provided for the actor and the actor is covered as much as possible both within the scene and between takes. In my own experiences, crews are incredibly respectful and helpful to actors working in the nude, and the only thing that ultimately proves uncomfortable for the actor is the ambient temperature in the room or other logistical issues that would make the shoot difficult even if nudity were not involved.
An actor performing in a nude scene should be aware that it will most likely require some degree of body make-up to even the skin tone. Should the actor have tattoos and/or be playing a cadaver, the amount of makeup required may be significant. Body makeup is always applied in a closed area by experienced makeup artists (almost always of the same gender, but not necessarily – an actor should feel free to request a makeup artist they feel comfortable with). To make the application and removal of makeup easier, and actor will have an easier time of it if they thoroughly exfoliate and moisturize the night before the shoot.
An actor should remember that while comfortable with their own nudity, others may be les so – there is no need to be an exhibitionist. Actors should keep themselves covered while in holding and while not shooting the scene for the comfort of others on set who may come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.
Actors working in the nude should expect to be paid a premium for this work. Background actors should expect (and ask) to either have a base salary higher than the SAG current minimum of $126 and/or to be paid a bonus for the nude work on top of that SAG minimum. Those with principle parts should be prepared to negotiate regarding compensation for the nudity at the time the contract is put together.
Professional film sets are such technical, professional and busy environments, that nude work is rarely embarrassing or uncomfortable, and is essentially a safe choice for any actor working in a SAG environment.