No strangers to Edinburgh or to each other, Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine treated Edinburgh International Film Festival-goers to a rather curious event last night: the world premiere of their 30,000 pound ($50,000 USD) mockumentary “Le Donk and Scor-zay-zee,” which was shot in just five days, and without any script to speak of.
EIFF Artistic Director Hannah McGill introduced the film, saying she was thrilled when the folks behind “Le Donk” came to them with “this strange little thing that they wanted to do with us.”
Meadows has screened his work at the festival on numerous occasions, from his early short films to winning the Michael Powell Award (the fest’s top prize) last year for “Somers Town.” But he’s never come with something in the “Spinal Tap”-esque vein of “Le Donk.” Considine – who Meadows has known since college and has frequently worked with – plays Le Donk, a narcissistic, down on his luck wannabe music mogul. The character was created by Considine and Meadows years ago, Meadows noted on stage at the screening. In college, the two were in a band together, and in their own quest to find success, they would run into many “small-time svengalis.”
“They’d claim to be big in Japan, but they work at McDonalds,” Meadows laughed. “So we came up with this character as a result.”
Having first appeared on the DVD extras of Meadows’s “Once Upon a Time in the Midlands,” they were never able to find “an outlet for Donk.” But after the emotionally draining shoot that was 2006’s “This is England,” Meadows “was ready to have some fun.” The result is this 71-minute film, which follows Le Donk’s selfish quest to find fame through getting his lone client, Scor-zay-zee (played by real-life rapper Dean Palinczuk – who joined the project literally a day before it began) a gig opening for the Arctic Monkeys – or “Artical Monkeys,” as Donk calls them. Meadows takes part as well, playing himself as the director of the documentary within the mockumentary (check out a trailer for the film here).
“Le Donk” doesn’t aspire to much. Intended only as a DVD release, it essentially feels like Meadows’ little experiment in between more ambitious projects. But it’s that care-free attitude that makes “Donk” such a pleasurable experience.
“Everything that’s happening [in the film] is happening in real time,” Meadows said. “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 film is also surprisingly cohesive considering the let’s-just-see-what-happens mentality that went into the filmmaking, and is very much held together by Considine’s impressive improv skills. We’ve seen versions of his egotistical, hopeless character many times before – particularly in mockumentaries. But Considine gives him a unique spin, refraining from exaggeration and thus giving the character, and the film, a soul. It’s also clear in every frame that everyone involved is having a blast making this up as they go along, and it clearly rubbed off on the enthusiastic Edinburgh audience.
After the screening, Meadows, and – in character – Considine – got a rousing reception as they came on stage. “Le Donk” said that, in taking the role, he’d “given Shane the benefit of the doubt because he’d made a few blockbusters… Shane’s known for taking strangers and making them into actors. I have a few ideas. I’m here to network.”
The audience played the game right back, from asking who this “Paddy” person is to inquiring about Donk’s ambitions, which apparently include making a film about a “one armed boxer.”
Likely to become a rarity in the recently more serious-minded resumes of both Meadows and Considine (who in particular hasn’t extensively honed his comic skills since his first collaboration with Meadows, 1999’s “A Room For Romeo Brass”), “Le Donk” marked a significant fun spot in the middle of the Edinburgh festival, which continues through this weekend. Though Considine, or “Donk,” rather, suggested on stage that it might not be the end of Donk.
“Without me, there ain’t anything for Shane Meadows to do,” he said. “It’s all me.”