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Interview

Vyuz talks to Bumfights creator Ryen McPherson

By Kate Kowsh

February 20, 2006

San Diego--To call the now-infamous shockumentary, Bumfights: A Cause for Concern controversial is such a gross understatement the notion warrants a good beating of its own. With content like high schoolers and homeless dudes duking it out, a crack addict crapping on the sidewalk and a ‘bum’ pulling out his own tooth with pliers, the film managed to shock an already jaded audience with feats of breathtaking depravity.

Rufus the 'stunt bum'

(Photo: Bumfights.com)

That being said, it’s easy to see why the film: (1) garnered so much negative publicity, landing the producers in jail, and (2) sold like dirty little hotcakes all over the world via the internet.

Co-producer Ryen McPherson, 22, shot about half of the footage in his hometown of La Mesa, and the other half in Las Vegas to create the one-hour film.

Soon after the movie’s release, the Bumfights Krew, as they came to be known, were accused of lubing up the homeless guys with booze and paying them to fight, an accusation McPherson vehemently denies. Regardless, he and the Krew, Zachary Bubeck, Daniel Tanner and Michael Slyman were arrested (McPherson, in his parents’ front yard).

Whether or not the videos are immoral or not can, and should be, argued. After all, the law protects the right to openly express one’s beliefs. But whether the antics were criminal was determined in June 2003, when a judge dismissed felony charges of battery and soliciting a felony, citing insufficient evidence. Though the more serious charges were dropped, the four pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to stage an illegal fight. As result, they were ordered to perform 280 hours of community service working with…the homeless.

Rufus ‘the Stunt Bum’ and Donald Brennan, the two featured ‘bums’ in the film, have since acquired legal council and filed a civil suit of their own.

Vyuz contributor Kate Kowsh spoke with Ryen McPherson, to find out what he thinks the real “Cause for Concern” is.

Okay, I know it’s a video, there’s bums and there’s fighting, but what exactly is Bumfights all about?

It’s mostly attempting to depict high school kids going at it. People kinda went a little overboard with judging the book by its cover. The homeless content is mainly made up of people on the streets kinda wiggin' out.

I think there’s two actual situations from the video that’s like an hour long, and there’s two, maybe twenty-second situations where homeless people actually engage in fighting. But it’s not being provoked by any of us. I mean, we’re on the streets and these guys are throwing blows. So, it’s just a video with a bunch of homeless people and a bunch of high school kids fighting, and so we called it “Bumfights.” Then everyone took it upon themselves to get the idea that we were paying homeless people to fight and whatnot. I mean, if you actually watch the video, which most people haven’t done, you’ll see that it’s not even like that.

So the Bumfights web site mentions some other guys, Ray Latticia and Ty Beeson. Who are they?

That is an alias, for him and another guy. Ty Beeson is the other alias. They were originally investors, who, when I was like 18, they came on. We had the video all ready, and they ended up kind of extorting us and doing a bunch of shady shit, so we sold off our rights.

I remember someone from Bumfights doing an interview on Fox with Greta Van Susteren. Who was that?

That’s the thing. Once we left Bumfights, they had this friend of theirs pose as Ty Beeson or whatever their aliases were at the time, and he sort of took over doing their PR and all their interviews, but none of those guys ever had anything to do with the production. I mean, they were just money men, and since they owned Bumfights, those were the people, you know? The media was contacting them and asking for their two cents but they never put in any work.

It really hurt us bad because we were in trial for the stuff and we had assholes like that guy on Fox, on live TV, just acting like a dick, talking about how much money he made. I mean, all that reflects poorly on us.

The truth eventually did emerge, but it went from front page headlines when everything was all, looking terrible for us, to like a little three line column when we prevailed in trial.

When did things start to get ugly for you guys in terms of negative media attention and being arrested?

We did some stuff with Howard Stern and everything was going really well, but it was only about a month, a month and a half after we actually released the video that we decided to sell out.

What did your parents think about the videos?

They’re cool. I don’t really advise them to watch the videos but, I definitely tell them, you know, what they’re all about.

Do you still talk to the homeless guys?

No, I live in Vegas now. San Diego pretty much ran us out of town. We can do whatever we want in Vegas. No one really gives a shit out there. That city is blatantly honest about how fucked up they are. The one main guy, Rufus—him and Donnie were the two main guys in the video. They were close friends of ours. Donnie’s still homeless. Rufus has been sober for like three years. He’s doin’ really, really well.

What are you up to these days?

We did the Indecline video. We’re doing the graffiti tape. We’ve been producing a couple bands. We got a little record label going. We got a clothing line and all that fun stuff.

Do you think it’s ironic that shows like “Cops” and other reality shows depicting people doing bad things can air, yet you get the heat?

No one really made a stink about the high school kids, you know what I mean? but when you’re videotaping or exposing—whatever you wanna call it—[the media] likes to hear the word, “exploit.” But they don’t really know the situation. We were the only ones there and we’re the ones that are friends with a lot of these homeless people that we filmed.

Bumfights got kinda big and it irked a lot of people. It was something that they felt was tasteless and immoral, but the real problem was that it wasn’t illegal and that’s kinda why we got fucked. They couldn’t really see the line between something that was just immoral, so we ended up going to jail for something they felt was just immoral.

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Kate Kowsh is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Vyuz San Diego.

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