Homecoming: The Forgotten World of America's Orphanages screens at Edwards Island, 999 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach. April 20, 4 p.m.

MICHAEL SLÁDEK'S ALTERNATE REALITIES

Michael Sládek's strange, irritating, potent debut picture, Devils Are Dreaming, follows a frustrated, wannabe artist named Joseph who finds himself pingponging around in various realities, getting glimpses of other paths his life could have taken. Sládek's own life has taken many paths; the Newport Beach native appeared in theatrical productions at Laguna Playhouse and South Coast Repertory before he moved east and spent a few years working behind-the-scenes at MTV News. He's directed music videos, worked (off-camera) in the porn industry, and currently manages the Brooklyn band Stupid, which composed Devils Are Dreaming's hypnotic soundtrack. We won't be stunned if Sládek changes careers again sometime soon, but we hope he'll stick with this director thing long enough to make a few more films.

OC Weekly: What was the genesis ofDevils Are Dreaming?Michael Sládek:The project started as two separate ideas. The first was a story I was developing about a young couple, deeply in love, both working in the porn industry. The second idea was about members of an experimental theater company who have problems with their arrogant director. Eventually, I decided to merge the story ideas into one. Both were based loosely on my own experiences in the porn and TV worlds as well as in theater. How autobiographical was this story? Have you gone through periods of feeling like a failed artist? There was something about Joseph's desperation that made it seem like it came from a very deep, personal place.

The project is autobiographical in a number of ways but is linked by highly fictionalized circumstances and characters. [Joseph's situation] definitely came from deep feelings of my own, having run the gamut of creative endeavors over the years and at times feeling totally at a loss with my own abilities vs. the outside world's demand for success above all else. I believe most people go through this kind of breakdown at some point in their lives, wherein we stop, look around, and take account of where we are vs. where we thought we'd be or would like to be. [We] often feel like we've literally woken up as a different person than we'd expected.

I liked the film, but I was sometimes frustrated by it in the same way I'll sometimes be frustrated by the new wave filmmakers of the '60s. As much as your film sometimes drove me nuts, it really stuck with me. There's definitely something special there.

The film treads a fine line between alienating the audience and keeping them emotionally interested and entertained. In many ways, frustrated interest is what I was going for as a response from the audience so as to help them identify with Joseph's personal frustrations. My hope is that people will care enough about Joseph and find enough humor in the film to stick with it and that the film's pacing, imagery and music keeps the viewer from thinking too much about the pit of confusion in their stomach.

Was working at MTV a happy experience? Do you have any dirt on the VJs? Is Kurt Loder a coke fiend? Did Tabitha Soren do Jell-O shots off the bellies of interns?

I spent three years at MTV News and had a great time working for Kurt Loder, Tabitha Soren, John Norris, Serena Altschul and Chris Connelly because all of them are such great people. I probably would have bailed out on MTV much earlier than I did if it weren't for how cool they all were to me; I never had any desire to work there, let alone in TV. The only thing I miss is that regular paycheck and the benefits. I don't miss my cubicle at all.

Almost every first-time filmmaker makes a few spectacular blunders during the process. Looking back, what was your biggest mistake?

My favorite mishap was when we were shut down by Irvine police on our first day of shooting because we had our lead actor, Stephen Donovan, running through the UCI campus in his underwear and a robe, wielding a large kitchen knife. The shot we were doing was extremely wide, so Stephen had to run really far away from us over and over, and someone on campus eventually called the cops because all they saw was this redheaded, half-naked maniac running by with a knife. I managed to B.S. our way out of a ticket.

Devils are Dreaming screens at the Lido Theater, 3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach. April 19, 3 p.m.

THE FIVE STAGES OF BEER IS KILLING BRIAN MIX SOFTLY

Local boy Brian Mix's affable little ensemble picture The Five Stages of Beer is a romantic comedy with plenty of snark to ground it in reality and keep it interesting. It's not the kind of movie that rocks anybody's world, but the dialogue has the lazy charm of Kevin Smith on a good day, and it's certainly refreshing to see a contemporary American comedy that looks at love from the straight-dude point of view without including a few dozen fart gags.

OC Weekly:Out of all the stories you could have told, what inspired you to tell the tale of a man whose wife leaves him for a clown?Brain Mix:We set out to write a script that we could make with the assets we had. My partner Mark knew a guy with a bar, and he knew a band. I knew a guy with access to a good camera and another with a grip truck. And we both had a friend whose wife really did leave him for a clown. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. We took those assets, wrote a script and made The Five Stages of Beer. To be honest, I thought the writing and directing of this film were better than the performances, which I found more inconsistent. How did you first find your actors, and what did you think of how the performances turned out?
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