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Scriptwriting, Stories, And Songs: Why We Love National Finals Written by on January 25, 2023

Why does the Eurovision community love the National Finals season? The songs are front and centre, the competitive element is below the surface, and the discussions are engaging and entertaining. But is there something more? Ewan Spence looks at these key three months through the principle of the three-act structure.

The National Final season, where broadcasters select their entries for the Eurovision Song Contest through broadcast shows, is enjoyed by many fans of the Song Contest. Of course, many more fans will just participate in just their own country’s selection, and more may wait until May to enjoy their love of the Contest.

What is that attracts parts of the community to the Nationals? It can’t be just the music. Artists are releasing new singles and albums all the time. In the week before this article was published Måneskin published their latest album ‘Rush!’, Kate-Miller-Heidke, Laura Tesoro, Paula Selling, and Zdob si Zdub, to name a few, all released new singles.

Part of it will be the competitive element to the process, although I think we all have to acknowledge that trying to objectively decide on a subjective piece means there will always be discussions and differences of opinion.

I’d suggest that another part of the National Final season helps draw people in. There is a through-line drawing in all the elements of this time of year into a single narrative. In essence, the National Final season follows a classic path of storytelling.

Into The Field of Screenplay

Let’s look at our favourite song selection processes through the eyes of ‘the three-act structure’ as laid out by Syd Field in ‘Screenplay‘.

Take a look at the broad sweep of the structure. In Act One, the story is set up, we learn who our hero is, and they discover their goal and what they have to do. Act Two is all about confrontation as our hero faces challenges and obstacles that could stop them from achieving their goal. This could be any number of challenges, from a single problem right through to an epic obstacle course. Finally, you have Act Three where we have the climax of the story and our hero does or does not achieve their goal.

This is a well-used rhythm across countless properties. Film is the obvious area, but you have this in TV series as well, definitely within a single episode, and sometimes across an entire series, especially if it is serialised storytelling. You might not recognise it, but if something feels comfortable it’s because at some level your brain understands the tempo of storytelling.

With that, back to the National Finals.

The Setup

The first act introduces the hero and sets up the important events.

In the world of the Eurovision Song Contest, that means the introduction of the performers and their songs. These could happen at the same time or there could be a gap between the names and the notes coming out.   There might even be a prologue to this as we hear about potential names, long lists, and internal jury panels.

The important part of the act will be the first listen to the song. It’s also the first time that the artist’s song can be judged alongside the competition. The stakes have been set. No matter how we get there, act one will end with our artist and their music in place, ready to take on the country to win their National Final.

The Challenge

It’s time now for our artist and song to go out there and get the votes. The shape of this part of the story can vary wildly. If you look at the traditional National Final format, the artists and songs are released before the live show. That gives time for the community and the voting base to not only get familiar with the songs but also allows the artist to promote their entry and build momentum up for the voting.

As with any art form, there will be a wide range of emotions and reactions. This can set the tone for the rest of the selection. Is this a well-loved son? Has this connected strongly with the audience? Can the artist and their team get the song into a position where it can go for the win?

If you want to have a longer story arc, then you can regard the various heats, Quarter Finals, and Semi Finals as more confrontations throughout the story, offering obstacles to our artists.

The Resolution

And so we come to the final challenge in the third act. The artist takes their song into the National Final crucible. Will the song connect with the largest audience yet? Will the points come in? How will it stand up in competition with the other songs?

This is the climax of the National Final journey, and our heroic artist is about to find out what the resolution will be. Will they get a sequel and head to the Song Contest or will their Eurovision story end? Will there be an emotional success such that the competitive result is not necessarily the payoff?

A Sexy Story’s Structure

Let’s take Måneskin as an example. The Italian band already had a rich backstory that included meeting at school, busking on the streets of Rome, and their appearance on The X Factor. That contributed to the set-up, because picking out their name from the list of Sanremo 2021 artists there was an intriguing story, but everyone knows rock never does well at Sanremo.

Then they walked out on stage as a little rock band from Rome, and left as legends. That three minutes lit up the continent. Welcome to the big twisting plot point at the end of Act 1.

If Sanremo is a challenge to watch, it’s a marathon for the performers. Going out on stage every night, doing the press rounds every afternoon, working to get the votes, putting on a show, and staying the course makes this a gruelling marathon of music for everyone concerned. And there are opportunities to slip up every night. Throughout that week, I watched on and a little thought cropped up at the back of my head. They couldn’t actually do this, could they?

The streaming count, the polls, and the buzz built every single night as the band answered every challenge.

Saturday night was set. The final big performance, the votes coming in, and a watching audience in the theatre, across Italy, and around Europe and beyond had become incredibly invested in this sexually charged slice of hard glam rock. One last challenge before the resolution, but would it bring happiness or despair?

As we now know, it was happiness.

These Are Our Stories

The Eurovision Song Contest is a rich tapestry of music, but it’s as much a tapestry of stories as it is of song. Our songs are some of the most powerful stories we can tell. We’re wired to love music and the tales they tell.

How we select our songs is just as much of a story as the songs themselves.

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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