How to Incorporate Lived Experience in The Films, TV, and Games of The Future

How to effectively and authentically portray other people's stories and cultures is fast becoming an integral part of any storytelling, regardless of the medium. OKRE's Lived Experience Lead, Jenna Al-Ansari, details the importance of incorporating Lived Experience in this latest article.


“Where’s the intimacy coordinator? We need to redo the choreography for the spanking scene.”

That’s not a sentence you’d have heard on sets five years ago. Today it’s normal (and even necessary) for productions to have a line in their budget for an Intimacy Coordinator. Following the ‘Me Too’ movement, the Film and TV industry needed to keep up pace and creators embraced this new role

Leading industry figures began to advocate for the presence of an Intimacy Coordinator. Michaela Coel dedicated her 2021 BAFTA for I MAY DESTROY YOU to her intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien, for “creating physical, emotional and professional boundaries, so that we can make work about exploitation, loss of respect, about abuse of power without being exploited or abused in the process. 

So we see how intimacy coordinators can support those with lived experience to tell their own stories, when they wish to, and it is imperative that these stories get told while creators are protected. As this becomes more essential to audiences seeking authenticity in storytelling, entertainment industries need to support and encourage more creators with diverse lived experience to tell their own stories. 

But alongside this, entertainment professionals are navigating how to deliver brilliant, authentic stories that don’t rely solely on creatives producing work informed by their own lived experience — a process that could be reductive and isolating. Increasingly, the industry is looking to encourage writers and creators from different backgrounds and experiences, foster relationships, and encourage collaboration between writers and people with lived experience of stories and themes explored.

So how do we encourage authenticity in storytelling, narratives that reflect diverse experiences, cultures, and identities in a genuine and respectful manner?

The ways Lived Experience consultants and individuals can add value to a production are endless. From working directly with writers through sensitivity readings, assisting in world-building workshops, development, and on early drafts of scripts to supporting Costume and Art Departments with their choices in design, the possibilities are hugely exciting.

One way is for people with those experiences to support creators in order to avoid tropes that may be harmful; assumptions that exist due to preexisting misconceptions, and contribute specific experiences that make a story more original, exciting and enjoyable.

The impact of scripted film, TV and Games in expanding people’s understanding is increasingly recognised by third sector organisations who acknowledge the power of storytelling as a tool for education, empathy-building, and social change. There is clear desire from charities and non-profits to collaborate with the entertainment sector

Entertainment currently engages both professional consultants and individuals with lived experience. But currently there is not much guidance or best practice for entertainment creatives on how best to work with consultants with lived experience. 

So will the cry “Where’s our Lived Experience consultant?” be normal on sets and in writers’ rooms in the near future, and how would that shift work in practice?

This year we have begun a stream of activities exploring how we can make sure lived experience can be incorporated fairly, safely, equitably into the film, TV and games of the future. We will work with brilliant organisations who advocate for specific groups to have more involvement in how they’re portrayed on screen, as well as those working in entertainment who are excited by the opportunities ahead to create nuanced and original stories that will stay with audiences for generations.

Lived Experience Lead, Jenna Al-Ansari:

Interested in hearing more about our programme of events?

Jenna Al-Ansari is Lived Experience Lead at OKRE, and she would be delighted to hear from those interested in joining our upcoming programme of events exploring lived experience in film, TV and games.