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Every Song A Story: Cinematic Television Written by on April 26, 2016 | 5 Comments

The Eurovision Song Contest is as much about the presentation as it is the music. Every Song A Story is ESC Insight’s collection of video essays exploring the visual world of the Song Contest. In this episode, Ewan Spence explores what it means to be cinematic, first on television, and then on the stage at the Song Contest.

Musical styles change, and it’s clear to hear what has changed from the first Contest in 1956 through to this year’s upcoming jamboree in Stockholm. Visual styles in television has changed as well, with the Song Contest evolving alongside the industry.

That said, the last few years have seen the rise of a more cinematic approach in television drama. Those lessons are starting to appear in the staging of the songs at the Eurovision Song Contest. Explaining what ‘cinematic’ means for musical presentation at the Song Contest is the subject of the latest episode of ‘Every Song A Story‘, continuing our look at how the visual world of the Contest continues to evolve.

Every Song A Story: Cinematic Television

From West Wing and Katrina and the Waves, to Mad Men and Mans Zelmerlow, how has the Eurovision Song Contest adopted the lessons of cinematic television?

You can look back over previous ‘Every Song A Story’ essays here on ESC Insight.

Every Song A Story will run through April in the run-up to Stockholm. As always, we look forward to your thoughts and reactions to this essay, and if there are any areas you ‘d like us to look at. Leave your thoughts in the comments, or reach out directly to [email protected]

About The Author: Ewan Spence

British Academy (BAFTA) nominated broadcaster and writer Ewan Spence is the voice behind The Unofficial Eurovision Song Contest Podcast and one of the driving forces behind ESC Insight. Having had an online presence since 1994, he is a noted commentator around the intersection of the media, internet, technology, mobility and how it affects us all. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, his work has appeared on the BBC, The Stage, STV, and The Times. You can follow Ewan on Twitter (@ewan) and Facebook (

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5 responses to “Every Song A Story: Cinematic Television”

  1. Of course Ewan, you do realise that fate will now give us a winner in 2016 that just sings the song and has a focus just on them, no pyros, no cinematic tricks…

    Wasn’t Conchita like that? Or are you including the fiery wings as ‘cinematic’?

    If we were to have an old school ‘no frills, all about the singer’s emotional delivery and voice’, we could be looking at a Serbian or Latvian win this year…

  2. Ewan Spence says:

    I’d love a solo singer to win, and unless they lock the camera position off, it will have cinematic cues. Take Conchita – it’s utterly cinematic. Think about where the camera is, how it moves, how planes of movement are brought in. Think about the camera position relative to her eyeline at various emotional beats. Look at how the camera reflects ‘we’re gonna fly’ at the key moment. Or the opening shot of darkness and mystery. How does that build the character and tell you what is happening.

    Go watch Rise Like A Phoenix without any sound playing. Now come back and tell me it’s not cinematic with a straight face! 😉

  3. Lena I would certainly be an exception, though. 🙂

  4. Damian Mcc says:

    This is an interesting analysis, but it doesn’t give much credit to the earlier contests. Don’t you think the 1963 and 1977 contests have thoughtful, clever visuals? I always love the way the second verse of ‘It’s Nice to be Love Again’ is directed, and the visuals make a huge contribution to the impact of ‘L’oiseau et l’enfant’.

  5. Ewan Spence says:

    Damian, they do, and they matched the style of musical presentation in those eras. The style now is heavily influenced by YouTube and the big budget music video.

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