Tired of the usually lengthy period involved in shooting, editing and releasing films, Shane Meadows came up with an ingenious concept: The 5-day feature.
The English writer-director is convinced his formula works and is offering to help other filmmakers to copy his method. He may be on to something. The prototype of his ultra quick flick, rockumentary Le Donk and Scor-zay-zee, got a rousing reception at its world premiere last week at the Edinburgh Film Festival.
Filmed backstage at an Arctic Monkeys/Amy Winehouse concert at Manchester's Old Trafford last summer, it stars Paddy Considine as Le Donk, a narcissistic, down-on-his-luck roadie and wannabe music mogul whose sole client is Scor-zay-zee (played by real-life rapper Dean Palinczuk). He splits from his girlfriend Olivia (Olivia Colman) just as she's about to give birth and makes a pathetic attempt to win her back from her much nicer new boyfriend, while he schemes how to make his client a star.
It was shot on two digital cameras, running constantly over four days, with the fifth day devoted to filming extra scenes after Meadows' initial, lightning fast edit.
“Le Donk is very funny and oddly touching and features a brilliant performance from Considine,” raved Empire magazine. “A lovely, engaging human comedy,” enthused The Times. The Independent said the film shows Meadows is “one of our brightest, breeziest filmmakers who feels no need to scoop together a massive budget to make a movie.”
However The Glasgow Herald wasn't impressed, declaring, “It's too short [71 minutes], too self-satisfied, and the mock rock doc is has been all but done to death.”
Even more remarkably, the film was shot improv-style, without a script. “Everything that's happening is happening in real time,” said Meadows, whose credits include This is England and Dead Man's Shoes. “For most of us, it was a documentary. Literally as we headed up to the gig we didn't know if they'd let us on.”
The Le Donk character was created years ago by college friends Considine and Meadows, and first appeared on the DVD extras of the director's 2002 movie Once Upon a Time in the Midlands.
Meadows and Warp Films producer Mark Herbert hope to inspire other filmmakers to follow their example, passing on the concept and tips about how to get it done. They're getting inquiries from as far afield as New York and Argentina.
"Our ultimate aim is to finance these films, but until then, you can send in your film, and if we like it, we'll give it our stamp, maybe build a body of like-minded films and help release them," Meadows told Variety. "Hopefully we can raise a pot of £1 million, or see if Panasonic, Sony or Apple would give us equipment to become this titchy studio."
Warp plans to release Le Donk in the UK in November in an innovative combination of live event screenings, DVD and web downloading.