Fyre vs Fyre

Netflix and Hulu documentaries take on different perspectives of the festival that never was.

Marisa Vasquez, Managing Editor

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White sandy beaches, brunch on a yacht, sexy celebrities galore and enough alcohol to quench the thirst of the USC and UCLA fraternity rows combined; this was the image that Fyre Festival sold when they announced its existence to the world. Unbeknownst to those who bought into the millennial dream, this vision advertised in the Bahamas was destined to be a glorious and epic fail.

Netflix and Hulu took their turns investigating the infamous festival, reviving its spotlight within mainstream media in the form of documentaries. While both included extensive research and appropriate contacts, their perspectives were very different.

Hulu’s streaming service was the first of the two to launch their Fyre Festival documentary which debuted on Monday, Jan. 14. Directors Jenner Furst and Julia Wiloughby Nason, who have worked together previously on Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, took into question the parent of Fyre Festival himself, Billy McFarland.

Hulu’s Fyre Fraud looks into the beginnings of McFarland’s interest in entrepreneurship, which was in fact during his elementary school days.

“My first combination of technology and marketing happened in second grade. I was put next to a girl who I had a crush on, and her crayon broke. I said ‘If you give me a dollar, I’ll fix your crayon,’” McFarland said in the interview. He goes on to explain that in order to advertise his small grade school business, he hacked into his school’s Internet typewriters to display a message that read “For your broken crayons, basically come and find me.”

Tapping into the history of the founder’s past allowed a better picture of how disconnected his version of reality was from the average Millennial. Selling and buying was McFarland’s bread and butter, even if he had to do so fraudulently. It was clear from the beginning for McFarland that there was significant financial impact he could have if he sold a desirable lifestyle to a mass audience; thus the birth of the Fyre Festival.

The most eerie characteristic of Fyre Fraud is the opportunity to witness Hulu’s production team interview McFarland himself throughout the documentary. When discussing his former ventures and startup companies, his eyes light up with excitement. He goes on to explain the trials and tribulations he and his network of investors went through to achieve selling luxury lifestyles to willing patrons. When the subject eventually leads to that of the Fyre Festival and the aftermath of the catastrophe, he turns into a stale, lawyer-scripted adult.

Netflix’s documentary Fyre, directed by Chris Smith, takes a deeper look into the making of the festival, focusing on the six months leading up to the event and the workers who did all they could to make it happen. Here, one sees how deeply McFarland’s entitled mentality wounded those who worked hard to make Fyre a reality.

One of McFarland’s close friends, an Event Coordinator named Andy King, went above and beyond the line of duty to help his young friend out when he ran out of money to pay for customs to clear a shipment of four semi trucks filled with Evian water. McFarland asked King to participate in lude sexual acts in order to have their shipment cleared.

After Fyre Festival crashed and burned, the Jamaican locals, who had worked to build what minimal infrastructure six months would allow them, came asking the Fyre company for their hard earned money. Once they were denied their payments, the workers began putting out hits on the Fyre employees, including King. He eventually had to escape the islands to keep himself from being a target.

Exuma locals worked tireless hours to accommodate the Fyre company. Maryan Rolle, an Exuma Point restaurant owner, helped cater not only the hundreds of workers that attempted to build the festival, but the attendees of the event as well.

“Basically I was taking the whole Fyre operation under my wing,” Rolle explains in an interview with the Netflix film crew.

After the dust settled and Fyre had exited Exuma, Rolle found herself paying off her restaurant staff from her own savings rather than being properly compensated by the fraudulent company.

“I went through about $50,000 of my savings that I could have had for a rainy day,” Rolle explained to Netflix, “They just wiped it out and never looked back.”

Though these two documentaries are naturally set to compete against each other for audiences’ attention, their existence proves to be a lesson learned for the era of Millennials, and in some cases a blessing in disguise. Rolle and her husband, Elvis Rolle set up a GoFundMe account to help regain financial stability. Today she has raised over $204,000 due to the exposure the Fyre Festival documentaries provided.

Some say the world has not seen the last of McFarland’s business ventures, though his new reality is the idea of responsibility as he serves his sentence of six years in federal prison.

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