Rival Fyre Festival Docs Ignite Fiery Words Between Filmmakers

Netflix and Hulu are fighting over whose documentary about unethical behavior is more ethical

Last Updated: January 15, 2019 @ 7:04 PM

The filmmakers of rival Netflix and Hulu documentaries about the failed Fyre Festival are trading fiery accusations of unethical behavior.

Hulu got the jump on Netflix by releasing its documentary, “Fyre Fraud,” on Monday, just days before Netflix’s planned Friday release of its documentary, “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.”

In an interview with The Ringer, Chris Smith, the director of Netflix’s version, accused Hulu of paying for an interview with Fyre Media founder Billy McFarland. McFarland organized the 2017 event, which social media influencers hyped as a luxurious, star-studded music festival in the Bahamas. Instead, attendees found poor living conditions that included cafeteria-style food.

“We were aware of [the Hulu production] because we were supposed to film Billy McFarland for an interview,” Smith told the Ringer. “He told us that they were offering $250,000 for an interview. He asked us if we would pay him $125,000.”

Since McFarland swindled so many people out of money, Smith said, the Netflix filmmakers didn’t want to pay him even more. McFarland is serving a six-year prison sentence for defrauding investors. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud.

In Hulu’s “Fyre Fraud,” by filmmakers Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason, McFarland said his intentions were good but that the event suffered bad luck.

Furst told The Ringer that McFarland received a fee, but denied it was $250,000: “That was not the amount. It was less than that. I don’t know why Chris [Smith] is quoting him that way. We both made a film about the same person. We know the person is a compulsive liar.”

An individual with knowledge of the Hulu production told TheWrap that the filmmakers paid a nominal fee to license footage from McFarland, but said that it was below $250,000.

Furst said Netflix has an ethical dilemma of its own: Netflix’s “Fyre” was produced with Jerry Media, the social media agency that handled marketing for the Fyre Festival.

Hulu’s doc features an interview with Oren Aks, a former designer for Jerry, who said he and others were instructed to promote the festival despite serious doubts that it would succeed. He said they even deleted negative posts on the festival’s Instagram page. Jerry Media is one of the defendants named in attorney Mark Geragos’s class-action lawsuit against the festival.

The filmmakers of the Netflix doc said in a statement to TheWrap:

“We were happy to work with Jerry Media and a number of others on the film. At no time did they, or any others we worked with, request favorable coverage in our film, which would be against our ethics. We stand behind our film, believe it is an unbiased and illuminating look at what happened, and look forward to sharing it with audiences around the world.”

Hulu declined to comment. Jerry Media did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.