Hulu pulled a helluva power move yesterday by dropping its new documentary about 2017's ill-fated Fyre Festival mere days before Netflix was primed to release Fyre, its own deep dive into the event. This was more than just a marketing stunt, though—Hulu’s Fyre Fraud, it appears, sought to preempt the Netflix project because it directly calls Fyre out for counting social media agency Jerry Media among its producers. Jerry Media—run by Elliot Tebele (a.k.a. meme god FuckJerry)—also had a hand in staging another event: Fyre Festival. Weird, huh?
The team behind Netflix’ Fyre has bigger problems with Fyre Fraud, though. In an interview with The Ringer, Fyre director Chris Smith revealed that the team behind Hulu’s project paid $250,000 to Fyre Festival founder (and convicted con man) Billy McFarland for an interview. “We were aware of [the Hulu production] because we were supposed to film Billy McFarland for an interview,” he said. “He told us that they were offering $250,000 for an interview. He asked us if we would pay him $125,000. And after spending time with so many people who had such a negative impact on their lives from their experience on Fyre, it felt particularly wrong to us for him to be benefiting. It was a difficult decision but we had to walk away for that reason. So then he came back and asked if we would do it for $100,000 in cash. And we still said this wasn’t something that was going to work for us.”
Fyre Fraud co-director Jenner Furst disputed McFarland’s $250,000 price tag (“It was less than that,” he said), but maintained that Netflix’s partnership with Jerry Media puts their film in “a bigger ethically compromised position, and that’s going and partnering with folks who marketed the Fyre Festival and were well aware that this was not going to happen as planned.”
Furst added that his documentary includes “a whistle-blower from inside [Jerry Media] who says that he knew months before that this wasn’t going to be what it was sold as.” He continued, “It’s a little bit of a head-scratcher to say that we have an ethical quandary when it seems like people who got the rest of the world knee deep in shit are making large licensing fees and getting prestige when this thing comes out on Friday. To me, I think it’s a little bit of the pot calling the kettle black.”
While ethical questions plague both projects, they remain equally fascinating and unique looks at what’s undoubtedly the Woodstock ‘99 of this generation. Fyre Fraud, in particular, does an admirable job of using Fyre’s innate schadenfreude as a portal into larger, more pressing themes about social media’s role in the evolution of the grift.