At the dawn of 2019, our twin film obsession is Fyre versus Fyre Fraud, streaming on Hulu and Netflix, respectively. Both movies seem to channel the spirit of the times, bedeviled by grifters and cheats. But in the case of Netflix’s Fyre, the grift may have seeped into the production of the film itself.
Both documentaries purport to tell the “real” story behind the Fyre Festival debacle of 2017, in which the charlatan Billy McFarland ripped off customers who had bought into an Instagram-fueled dream of partying with supermodels in the Bahamas.
The dream never materialized—instead of champagne and concerts and luxury villas, ticket-holders encountered FEMA tents, empty beaches, and a transportation crisis. McFarland left behind a trail of unpaid debts, notably to the residents of Great Exuma itself, and ended up in jail for wire fraud.
Conflict of Interest
Hulu’s Fyre Fraud focused on social media marketing agency FuckJerry—which is trying to rebrand as Jerry Media—and its complicity in McFarland’s doomed project. But Netflix’s Fyre was mysteriously quiet on that issue, instead highlighting eye-poppingly nefarious anecdotes, like event producer Andy King’s claim that he came very close to performing fellatio on a customs official to extract a detained shipment of Evian water.
Jerry Media, best known for its popular F—Jerry Instagram account, handled the social media for Fyre and was the event’s connection to the influencers who would make the festival go viral.
Now, documents show that the CEO of FuckJerry, Mick Purzycki, who was a producer of Fyre, also claimed to have “final cut” over the documentary while it was being put together. Though his editing authority was later “superseded by the distribution agreement where the final cut was with the director,” according to Netflix, the way the movie was produced suggests that FuckJerry used the film to launder the trouble company’s reputation.
And what appeared to be a story of competing films turns out to be something else: A genuine investigative documentary struggling for attention against a shadow public relations campaign.
FuckJerry has some serious answering to do related to its involvement in Fyre Festival. The company released a statement saying that “all actions taken by Jerry Media were done at the direction of the Fyre Festival,” suggesting that it was just as innocent as the scammed ticket-holders. But as a several journalists have observed, none of the tickets would ever have been sold if it hadn’t been for FuckJerry’s efforts to spam social media with Fyre’s false advertisements. Furthermore, former FuckJerry employee Oren Aks has said that the company was aware of Fyre Festival’s problems far earlier than it has claimed, and therefore needs to be held accountable in Billy McFarland’s fraud.
Footage Without Authorization
As TMZ reports, Clarissa Cardenas says she shot video from her phone during the festival and was shocked to learn that her footage wound its way into Netflix’s Fyre doc. Cardenas claims she registered her video with the U.S. Copyright Office, and in the documents pertaining to the lawsuit she also provided a screenshot of the video. The screenshot isn’t accompanied by any description, however, but she claims it’s entirely owned by her.
Cardenas’ lawsuit is targeting Netflix and Jerry Media, and she’s demanding $150,000 in damages or some proceeds of the documentary’s profits.
The Netflix documentary made news again recently when Andy King, a subject who appeared in the doc, spoke to TMZ about how he originally wanted one of his key scenes edited out of the project. “I went to them and I said, listen, I just talked to my lawyers and some of my creative team and they said ‘Andy, you’ve gotta pull this thing, that can not go into this documentary,'” King explained, referring to the infamous “oral sex for Evian water” moment. Eventually, he was glad the scene made it into the final product.