Lithuania is in full swing with it's Eurovision selection. This year the Baltic nation has opted for a televised selection process consisting of several heats, that will see artists qualifying for the next rounds, all culminating in a Grand Final that will be held on March 11th 2018. We had a chance to meet and interview Eurovizijas atranka's Chief Producer Audrius Giržadas. It was a pleasure to talk to him, and this is what he had to say:
How long have you been involved in Lithuanian Eurovision?
This year it will be my 9th Eurovision. I started it with incolito in Oslo
How are the preparations going on?
Actually, it is tradition. We just started our national selection, which is kind of a long process, because we decided to make it a television show like a television project. We had a discussion with our programming department, so the idea came from the other commercial channels who have imported projects with a format like X voice, X factor or The Voice, itself. We decided why don’t we turn our national selection into same kind of project. So, that is why it is so long, and just yesterday we recorded our 3rd show of this kind. It is the first step which we called the pre-selections. So, we just started, we decided and we will see how it will go on.
How do you encourage singers to apply to Eurovizijas atranka?
We pay them huge money. I am joking (he laughs). We would like all the singers to participate in the Eurovision selection and unfortunately the very well experienced, very famous artists, they are not so enthusiastic about participating in this selection. They are not against going to Eurovision to represent Lithuania. They want to be invited, or asked too. They would then kindly go there and do the job. However, they are not very willing to participate in the process of the national selection. They have different reasons, and they do understand for them to stand together with the less experienced, the less famous artist on the same stage, and to go to prove the same procedure, maybe they are too ambitious to do this. We always explain to the artist that this is the great opportunity to bring the message, to bring their name to the very, very wide international audience, the biggest audience about they can imagine. So, some of them really take the risk, and the others they don’t, because on the other hand all this process, this long process it is not very easy. Ok, I do admit this, but you know all the artists they do their job to participate in different contests, festivals and they fight for being famous. So, this would be one part of their job. But, after you come from Eurovision it is not over for you. Everyone still discusses how you did, and very often they hear ‘hmmm, so what? Not even in the top 5 again?’ Not everyone is ready for that. It is really, really a big pressure for the artists. So, some of them are ready to take that, and others not.
When you were talking about famous singers, are you also including Erica Jennings, who kind of withdraw from the project because of the jury rules?
And Erica Jennings also. Yes.
Do you think you need to change the competition or the rules slightly?
I do not think so. For instance if you check the formats of the other countries they are almost the same. The voting system even in the Melodifestivalen is similar to Eurovision. It's 50/50, which we also have here (referring to the public and jury having the same amount of votes). So, the process for our artists is the same. They must go on stage, it is their job. When they claim that it is a long and heavy process when they perform the first week, then if they are successful appear In a months time, it gives them time to polish their performances, their singing, the song and everything on. So, it is not as heavy as it may look at in the first glimpse. They do not perform every week. Each artist performs once, we chose half the artists from the semi finals. The most successful artists will be appear only 4 time on the stage during two months (this will be through the heats, semi final and final). In regards to the jury question, and Erica Jennings, I do not remember a moment when she was assaulted by the jury. She is a good singer. She is a good artist. So, when the jury comments on her song, or on her performance it was always very polite. Of course every jury member has something to say. It was never rude talking about her. Even with the worst artists here appear on the very first three selections of the televised shows. Even in those cases the jury never crosses the line. Yes, they are honest, they are straight forwarded, but they never cross the line. Even if this happens during the rehearsals we edit to take this out.
We have noticed that during each show you change the juries judging the artists, can you tell us a little more?
Yes, however, Ramūnas Zilnys is always there, but at each show we change the other jury members. In the Grand final last year if you remember we had 7 members of the jury, and it was the blind choice. Each participant took the envelope and only those few votes of the jury are counted. Others were put in the shreder even without opening. Just yesterday I was talking to one international journalist who asked a question about Erica's withdrawal, and about me as statement and so on. So, talking about jury comments he had a very good question. In case you win the national selection what will happen the next day when you will open facebook or internet comments. In hours you have to have a very strong balls, backbone to read all of this. So, this jury comments I really very polite talks compare to the internet comments. which you will get there. So, take it as a training.
We are very curious about the cost to organize this Eurovizijos atranka. Could you tell us a little more?
It is not cheap. Every big television show is not cheap. And so if it is, if it would be just 2 shows like for instance in Stockholm - they show semi-finals and final. So, of course it would be, but I believe that our one show is much cheaper than in Stockholm. So, you know the budget means very different things in different countries. So, I would say that Lithuania is not a very rich country. So, to one country it may look like a fantastic amount of money. So, I do not want to call, to call the numbers.
Eurovoxx has been really impressed with the show, and how it looks the effects, and staging are just amazing. With this is mind what would it mean to you, and the country to win Eurovision?
For me personally, it would be probably that point where I will start thinking about resigning from this position, because, I would say I've done this (won Eurovision with the Eurovizijos atranka pre-selection) . Yes, I have done this, and that is enough on one hand. On the other hand I really would like to participate in the team which works on the big Eurovision. As a head of delegation I believe I have already seen everything I am allowed to see. In the process of how big Eurovision is made, I would like to see even more. I would like to be on the event during the broadcasts, I would like to see how all the constructions goes, how do people do the planning, how they work on the live broadcast.
For instance, for me it was some kind of miracle that there were such an instrument u-pilot, it is a computer which switches the cameras and finally we also have this here, not on these 3 selections, but for the semi-finals and for the final. We also order the u-pilot and we work with that. So, every year we are getting closer professionally to being like the big Eurovision. I would like really to be in this process and see how this machine works, because for my profession, I am a studio person that I love to work on the live broadcast. For the country it is a huge possibility to say, hey, this is Lithuania and finally we can make Eurovision here, because we always like to compete with the three Baltic countries. So, we always have this kind of stigma that okay Latvians had Eurovision, Estonians had Eurovision and we still not.
So winning Eurovision, and being the final Baltic country to win the contest is part of that pressure?
Yes, so finally we would be out of this pressure and out of this stigma.
So what do you think about Eurovision? What is it for you? Do you think it is a political competition or is it only song-related or even something else?
You cannot separate life in music. You cannot separate what happens between countries in the world. You cannot separate war and the music. People live everywhere and they sing everywhere, and this cannot be separated. Eurovision bosses say we are totally a non-political event, so please split this. Sorry, how can we forget that in some countries people are dying, while we are singing here, and we see the representative of that country on the stage singing very painful song about their country. It is impossible to divide these things into separate things. So, I believe that it is all together it is like in your daily life, everything is there. Of course, there is some politics, there is some attitude things, and there is a lot of things together. You cannot divide and forget some parts of your life or the lives of other people. So, I do not agree, when we say that this is just totally music and lets forget everything. Lets have fun. That would be even unfair. For myself Eurovision was a big dream professionally, to see from inside how it is made. So, I've succeeded at this, I saw this, but I would like to go deeper. I am happy about Eurovision, that the music is back. At some moments I was already asking what is going on there? We would start swallowing flames and throwing knives, it felt like a big circus already, and not the music. Somehow some countries and I just turned back to the music and I am really happy about that (referring to the show being more about gimmick than the music itself).
Have you heard any of the other songs such as Albania's entry?
Sorry, no. I am very busy with our songs
Have you a favourite of any of the songs from Eurovizijos atranka?
I cannot talk about this, because I did not hear them on stage. What I have heard is demo versions of these songs. So, they are very very different to what we find on the rehearsals day on the stage. Some of the songs were sang by the real artists, and some of the songs are just recorded by demo artist, so the composers are singing them with a piano or with a guitar. It is absolutely a different product which goes on stage. The rehearsal day we see them, and as we have this four selection shows on television. Some countries have the behind the scenes to show everything. So, we are going this way. So, I believe this month we will be ready to say that we already saw them all, then maybe I will have my favourites.
At this point the interview ended. Eurovoxx would like to thank Audrius Giržadas for giving us his time. The team would like Lithuania to pick the best song, and wish the Baltic state all the very best of luck at Eurovision.