Some tools and tips for choreographing kisses for the stage or screen
In rehearsals, before kisses have been choreographed, use a "placeholder," which is any action or word to take the place of the kiss. I like to just have actors use the word "kiss" where they know a kiss will be. Other options include a high five or hands touching. Have a "target date" when you'd like actors to start touching lips.
closed, supervised kissing rehearsals
Don't have actors rehearse kissing scenes in front of the rest of the cast. Rehearsals should include the actors who are kissing, the director, the stage manager, and the intimacy director. (If you are in a setting working with minors, make sure there is a third party in the room aside from the adult and the minors who are stage kissing.) Do not send actors into another room to "figure it out themselves."
Provide actors with Listerine strips and chapstick, or remind them to bring their own. Listerine strips tend to work better for freshening breath, and can also possibly help reduce the transmission of germs. By having all actors use these products, we can make sure everyone is healthy and comfortable. (And we can avoid awkward conversations!)
reminder of button
Go over how the word "button" is used and the proper response ("What do you need?")
Using either the long version or the short version of boundary practice, have actors communicate with one another about their physical boundaries (where on their body they don't want to be touched) and any other boundaries necessary to do their best work (e.g. "I can only do this scene for 20 minutes at a time before I need a break").
Dive into the script and discuss the kiss moment. A few things to ask include:
Is this a first kiss?
How long have these characters wanted to kiss?
How badly do they want to kiss? Or do they NOT want to kiss?
Who initiates the kiss?
Is there a question or hesitation before the kiss starts?
Why does this kiss happen now? What is it about this moment and/or these characters that lead to a kiss?
How long of a kiss is this? SPECIFY HOW MANY COUNTS/SECONDS.
Is there more than one kiss?
Is there a visible power shift during this kiss?
choreograph body placement
Are characters sitting or standing? How far apart are they? Is there movement that needs to happen for them to get close enough to kiss? This step includes choreographing everything except hand placement and lip placement.
choreograph HAND placement
Where are character's hands and what are they doing during the kiss? Are they static/staying in one place? Moving? If they're moving, how many counts does it take for them to get their hand from one place to another. What depth of pressure are hands using?
If actors need to be kissing for a long time (for example, if two characters are kissing in the background of a scene), create a "loop" of 3-5 moments that actors can just move through over and over again.
Hands on face, 3 count kiss on lips
Tuck hair behind ear, whisper into ear
Other actor whispers something back
Kisses on temple, cheekbone, jaw, neck
Rehearse the scene, including the lines/moments leading up to the kiss and incorporating the body placement and hand placement you've choreographed, but instead of kissing or using a place holder, have actors touch noses. This allows them to get the feeling of the choreography and eases them into more intimate touch without lips actually touching yet.
Rehearse everything as you have been, but this time have actors touch lips. Remind them of the following:
How many counts
Closed mouth, no tongue (unless you've discussed and choreographed otherwise, but this is rare)
Note that sometimes (often), first stage kisses are a little weird or awkward. That's fine! Give actors a chance to run it through a few times. Sometimes it's a lot to remember!
Create time and space at the end of rehearsal for actors to do closure exercises, to remind their bodies and minds that what happens in character is pretend. If you are not able to provide this time and space for any reason, make sure actors have tools they can use on their own.