When the first images and clips of Bambie Thug‘s “Doomsday Blue” rehearsal trickled out a week before this year’s first Eurovision semi-final, there was one thing practically everyone could agree on: Ireland’s staging was something special. The operatic, demonic slice of musical theater excellence wowed press and fans alike, and the buzz around “Doomsday Blue” exploded overnight. Would this non-binary, Irish pagan songbird get Ireland its best result at the contest in over 20 years?

As it turns out, yes, yes they would. Viewers were blown away by how much impact had been achieved with one prop, a dancer, and innovative camera angles, and “Doomsday Blue” finished 6th in the Grand Final. It placed 6th with both the public and the televoting audience, even receiving a full 12 points from the Australian jury. It is Ireland’s highest placing entry since the year 2000.

But in a contest usually choreographed by the same handful of familiar names, fans and insiders were left scratching their heads: Who was this ‘Sergio Jaén‘, the 22-year-old director and producer responsible for Bambie Thug’s staging, and where did he come from? And more importantly, would he be sticking around?

Sergio on the set of “Traje de Luces”.

Originally from Elche, a city on the southeast coast of Spain, Sergio Jaén Sánchez caught the directing bug early. He made his first short film at the age of 13, eventually relocating to The UK to study filmmaking at The London College of Communication. While there, he directed a number of short student films and music videos, some of which can be viewed here. His work primarily focused on social issues facing contemporary Spanish and international society. His final year project, the 2023 short film Traje de Luces, tells the story of a young queer man struggling with his identity and grappling with the homophobia and animal cruelty prevalent in the world of bull fighting, an arena he is expected to follow his father’s footsteps into. The film was accepted into shorts film festivals across the globe, winning Best Short Film, Best Director, and Best Actor at last year’s València Indie Film Festival.

He has also directed music videos for UK-based musicians Gia Ford, floweruvlove, and Lily Moore (among others) and produced an acoustic showcase for Dua Lipa’s YouTube channel that has amassed over a million views since going live last month.

Sergio supervising Ireland’s rehearsal.

It was through his work in music videos that Sergio first became involved with Ireland’s Eurovision participation this year. He was contacted by RTE to produce the official music video for “Doomsday Blue” after the song won the Irish national final. With only one week of pre-production time, he pulled together a music video the entire team was pleased with and established a strong, working rapport with Bambie Thug themself. During shooting, Sergio noticed that there was not yet a team in place to design Ireland’s Eurovision staging, and he pitched Bambie and RTE on his concept.

“I didn’t want to do something obvious,” he told Eurovision Spain in an interview during rehearsals for semi-final one earlier this month.

Taking inspiration from the simplicity and effectiveness of editing and lighting-centric stagings of contests past, including Iveta Mukuchyan’s “LoveWave” (Armenia, Eurovision 2016) and Oscar Zia’s “Human” (2nd place finisher at Melodifestivalen 2016), Sergio dreamed up an atmospheric and gothic piece of musical theater stagecraft. He embraced RTE’s limited budget, trimming the vision down to its bare essentials: a dancer, a ring of candles, and Bambie Thug. It was an approach that could have gone very wrong.

Bambie and their ring of fire.

“Obviously there are examples of two people on the stage that has not worked,” he told Eurovision Spain, citing Moldova’s 2016 staging of Lidia Isac’s “Falling Stars” as an example. “I always have a bit of a nightmare about those things.”

Ultimately, the risk paid off, and Sergio’s staging was greeted with overwhelming praise and support. He credits the success of his vision to a hyper focus on the story being told.

“In the end it is all about the narrative and truth of Bambi,” he told Eurovision Spain.

As for any plans to return to Eurovision as a staging director in the future, Sergio expressed excitement about the possibility when asked by Eurovision Spain, though his mind was then firmly focused on the accomplishment of the task at hand.

“I’m 22 years old,” he marveled. “It’s crazy that I’ve completed [this] now … I can’t believe it. I’m very happy.”

You can follow Sergio’s journey, wherever it will lead him to next, on his Instagram page.

How many delegations do #YOU predict will be fighting to hire Sergio next year? Should Sacha Jean-Baptiste and Marvin Dietmann be concerned that he’s coming for their gigs? Let us know on our social media – FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Discord – or on ou forum page!

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