After the success of Eurovision 2021 in Rotterdam, Eurovision 2022 host broadcaster RAI invited Dutch television producer Twan van de Nieuwenhuijzen to return as the Head of Contest. Speaking to Volgspot on NPO Radio 5, he revealed several details about the show’s preparations — including how he and his team decided the running order.
When the show’s organisers released the running order earlier this week, fans debated what may have contributed to producers’ decisions. Twan unpacked his thinking behind the running order to Volgspot presenter Hijlco Spaan. When deciding where more intimate songs should go in the running order, Twan shared that the musical component is not the only factor. He said:
“The most important thing is to make as attractive a TV show as possible. To have a running order that will appeal too much of the public. Then you look to variety in music, as you already said, but also to the execution part. But if I look to the start of the semi-finals: we open with Albania. That song starts off slowly, but after forty seconds, a strong beat appears (…)”
“But if you saw the performance during the Albanian national final, then you see a type of drama, it looks dark in the clothes, in the staging and in the use of lights. And then it’s nice if you then [follow that up with] number two, which is actually Latvia. If you come with something that looks very fresh, bright colours, funky, very white. So if you heard nothing, there is still visual contrast in light and in direction.”
Meanwhile, Finland’s The Rasmus were put first in the second semi-final because of the high energy of the song. According to Twan, the country has “ambitious” staging.
The costruction and deconstruction of each act is another force to reckon with. Although the Head of Contest is very influential in determining the running order, the directors also play a large part in the decisions. This year, the stage crew only has 35 seconds to prepare each act. Upon his appointment, Twan requested that the Italian broadcaster allow him to bring some of the crew they had in Rotterdam. RAI agreed, understanding that the crew needs to function like a well-oiled machine.
When asked whether countries have shown dissatisfaction if assigned spots early in the draw, like the infamous “spot of death” for position two, Twan joked:
“I haven’t had any angry Latvians or Israelis on the phone. Nobody has called me, emailed me or texted… I literally have zero interest in disadvantaging any country.”
“I love all forty as much, I want to give all forty the same amount of attention during the preparations. That has to be honest. The rehearsals have been neatly booked in 30-minute slots. But also in the other type of attention that you give people when you email them or call them. There, we have to share our attention in an honest way. I cannot give one country twenty hours of extra attention and give zero attention to two other countries.”
Some delegations receive a “reality check” from organisers
After the deadline for submitting songs, countries are required to submit a so-called “look and feel” document. They outline the staging concept they want to see on stage.
Twan recalled how the Italian delegation submitted an 88-page document with videos, pictures and drawings to direct their entry second by second in Rotterdam. Barbara Pravi’s document was much shorter, but nonetheless complicated. The stage crew had issues with not being able to control the smoke due to the draughty hall in which Eurovision 2021 was held.
After receiving these “look and feel” documents, Twan noted the following:
“After that, the game really starts. At first we think, we know the song, do we understand how this staging adds to and strenghtens what a country or delegation wants. And then we, often, as the beautiful task is with me, have to give a reality check. Because, often, things are not possible, or are not allowed.”
Sometimes, plans die as the props that countries wants to bring can’t be brought in and hiring or making them locally is too expensive for a delegation’s budget.
One of the things that has been made impossible since the contest in Rotterdam is the use of fountains on stage. Twan said:
“Water on stage is just super complicated for us. There are some cables. Plus, the LED floors, which have been a given for years, are an incredibly slippery surface in their own right.”
“If there’s water on them, we also, within those 35 seconds, when we are already trying to build the set from Ukraine for example, have to mop it up. We did actually already decide last year that we cannot take that risk. We also have to guarantee the safety of all artists, who are in front of two hundred million viewers giving the performance of their lives. It’s impossible to make it safe [with water on stage].”
“The equality principle comes around there as well. Then we say “no” to everyone. No water on stage.”
Twan van de Nieuwenhuijzen stated that the show overall has a heightened level of creativity with many countries submitting well-developed plans. He recalls that the United Kingdom is “one to watch” too with regards to staging efforts.
We are very curious to see what what countries are planning for Turin. How about you? What are you expecting to see from your favourite countries? Let us know in the comments down below!