It all started with a question that 34-year-old Ryan Bergez, a former Long Beach State film and electronic arts student, had in mind when creating the drama “Bummed.”
“I thought, ‘What would it take for me to change my perspective of the homeless or help someone in [their] position?’” Bergez asked.
The question influenced Bergez to use his experience with interacting with the homeless in his first feature film, “Bummed.”
When he and his wife, Courtney Long, moved into their Hollywood home in 2011, they encountered an odious middle-aged homeless man living outside their apartment. His presence brought discomfort to Bergez, who didn’t want the homeless man near the home. Eventually, Bergez became acquainted with the man, George.
As they acquainted themselves with one another, Bergez learned George’s story, which made him see this harmless man was just another neighbor.
The story follows a widowed therapist, Michelle, who believes that she lost her husband, Brendan, at sea. As she walks the streets of Los Angeles, she stumbles upon a homeless man, Charlie, who she thinks might be her husband suffering from amnesia. Michelle does her best to help the homeless man re-jog his memory so that she can know the truth.
“A lot of times, the homeless won’t talk to someone or make eye contact with anyone all day,” Bergez said. “I hope people can look at the homeless as people and help restore their dignity in any way they can with food, money and other resources.”
Bergez took on the roles of writer, director, editor and method-actor. He cast himself as Brendan, the homeless character. His wife, Long, plays Michelle.
“At some point, I told myself while I was writing the movie that I could do it,” Bergez said. “Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to do a feature film.”
Previously, Bergez had many film school colleagues at CSULB give him edits on his first drafts of “Bummed.”
The movie was filmed in 11 days, planned strategically over the course of one month to accommodate for Long’s unexpected pregnancy.
“We tried to keep the days short because I couldn’t stand very long,” Long said. “At first the working relationship was really hard, and we then realized our personal relationship comes first.”
Rick Escamilla, the film’s director of photography, also underwent troubles during production.
On the last day of filming, the crew didn’t have permission to film on the grounds of a cemetery in Glendale. Security noticed the crew and was ready to interfere.
“It was just like, we’ve got to get it done,” Escamilla said. “It was something about seeing the finish line but being so far away that made it challenging.”
Bergez and Escamilla worked together in a previous film project over 10 years ago. Escamilla took advice from their former professor while contributing to “Bummed.”
During post-production, Bergez faced a year of rejection trying to get the film played in theatres. However, he and Long did not lose hope.
The Arts Theatre in Long Beach became the first venue that agreed to play the film, and “Bummed” had a two-day showing Nov. 2 and Nov. 3. Now, Bergez is going on a month-long tour to theatres in California.
The next showings will be at the Digital Gym Cinema in San Diego Nov. 8th and at the East Bay Media Center in Berkeley Nov. 16th. “Bummed” will have an Amazon rental release on Nov. 22nd.
“My greatest hope is that we look at each other differently and don’t look at homelessness in LA as an overwhelming problem, but look at it on an individual basis,” Bergez said. “If one person does it, it would mean everything to me.”