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Fyre Festival Was a Huge Scam. Is Netflix’s Fyre Documentary a Scam, Too? (newrepublic.com)
314 points by danso 37 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 151 comments



Yeah, I was pretty annoyed after I watched the Netflix documentary on this to find out it was produced by the same people at "FuckJerry." That's also why they had so much better "inside" footage compared to the Hulu one. I watched them both, and from a visual/entertaining stand point, the Netflix one was far superior, but the Hulu one was much more informative and critical of all parties involved. Clearly this article explains that neither were innocent, though. I just feel like Netflix was pretty sketchy not to include a disclaimer at the start or end of theirs to explain that the people at "FuckJerry" were a producer of the doc.

The whole thing, from the festival itself to the documentaries, is incredibly fascinating. Just another example of the plague that is social media. In years to come, I expect we will only see more stories of this level of social media marketing manipulation. It's scary.


"Just another example of the plague that is social media"

I'm not an advocate for Social Media. But i do not see Fyre Festival as a product of Social Media. Social Media was a tool that Fyre Frestival used very effectively. But if Instagram or whatever didn't exist i guarantee you Billy would have been running some other high risk fraudulent venture. It's who he is. Instead of social media as the tool, it may have been tv or radio. Heck, what about all the railway scams that existed back when we had only newspapers. Conmen will always find a way.


> Conmen will always find a way.

During the south sea bubble vendors sold shares in the streets.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Sea_Company#/media/Fil...


NPR had a very interesting article on scammers in the 1800s: https://www.npr.org/sections/npr-history-dept/2015/02/12/385...

The first guy would be a perfect fit for GoFundMe.


Agreed. However I see Billy as a product of the startup culture embracing failure. You have an idea for a company, convince someone else to finance it, the company fails and that person looses all their money. If that company succeeds then you're hailed as the next Steve Jobs despite the very real possibility you're a conman at heart like Billy.

FuckJerry deserves all the backlash they get and probably more but we can't let them overshadow the type of culture that has allowed someone like Billy to be doing this for so long.


I’ve only seen the Netflix one. Although nobody looks good in the documentary, the involvement of one of the parties in the production is certainly troubling. There is no way to make it even seem objective if they were involved. I’m discounted.


A lot of people in the Netflix special (the marketing/pr consultants, the models, some of the influencers and other "outside" firms) came off pretty well. The view I think it was pushing was that they failed to do their due diligence but in a way that everybody fails to do, so no biggie. I am aware that this lack of due diligence isn't at all uncommon in the modern world but it is a problem. Subcontracting out the removal of toxic waste then throwing up your hands and saying "I had no idea that the firm was going to throw that directly in the river after we paid them peanuts" is illegal (though... not always prosecuted... separate issue) and contracting out services is similar.

This, I think, is where the fallacy of the gig economy comes from. As an example Uber should not be held not-at-fault if one of their drivers breaks the law, the standard needs to be the same as if a UPS driver did the same thing.


Same, but my understanding is that in the Netflix doc, some of the people on the agency side were claiming that they had no knowledge or involvement, which is in question because they could have made the doc to distance themselves from the mess.


Then again, Hulu paid an undisclosed amount of money to Billy McFarland for an interview on a documentary after he scammed a whole bunch of people.

Noone can throw the first stone here.


Paying a scumbag for an interview is problematic in the sense that it shows a willingness to "fund bad people" in exchange for their stories. This does not create a conflict of interest, or the appearance of a bias.

Having the scumbags who were responsible for producing the festival involved in producing the documentary can lead to a MASSIVE conflict of interest and screams of bias in the narrative.

This is a false equivalency. One is good jurnos doing bad things to tell the story. The other could be bad jurnos doing a bad thing to spin a story.


To be fair though, Billy basically didn't answer any questions during that interview (at least that were put into the final cut). Nearly every question asked of him was met with awkward silence and pursed lips, or canned "I have no knowledge.." or "I can't comment on.." responses. I don't know that his interview added any bias in terms of what was shown in the film.


Yep, he didn't truly seem remorseful either. He was more interested in protecting himself from any further legal issues. I don't think it was ethical to pay for his interview whatsoever.


Which is likely a deliberate editing choice. Billy was paid to do the interview and then the director showed all that awkwardness to illustrate the depth of the grift.


Doesn't that make it worse? They paid him money and didn't really get anything out if it means he just scammed someone else.


But they did grill him pretty hard in that interview, at least. I think the interview scenes reinforced he was a complete liar and charlatan. I was not aware they paid him for it, but I think it was valuable to present his side of the story (and knock it down if it was bullshit - which it was, and which they did).


Well, Internet Historian can.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBPg5ftCMv8


It's not a competition - both docs can be biased or contain misinformation. The Netflix doc was accused of what I'm outlining.


It's a Netflix documentary intended for entertainment. I think expecting it to the objective at all wasn't very realistic in the first place.


I do agree they should have disclosed this at the top.

They promoted the thing and it could be argued hold some responsibility for the failure.


Could you elaborate on what "FJerry" is for the uninformed.


It's a social media marketing agency [1] (the article mentions they are trying to rebrand though as "Jerry Media" [2]) that lead all the social media marketing for the festival. They also mainly known for having a very popular Instagram account [3] where they have been in trouble in the past for reposting memes or content without giving credit to the creators. Basically people pay them to post content or spread content through their social media "influencer" network.

[1] http://fuckjerry.com/ [2] http://jerrystudios.com/ [3] https://www.instagram.com/fuckjerry


Was going through their instagram and noticed one of their obviously paid posts pushing the Hinge dating app:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BqDzdzLBJti/

I tried looking up the girl in the tweet to see if even that part was real and the username (https://twitter.com/dontcallortext_) doesn't exist, nor does searching "Simone Axing". So I'm guessing the entire tweet was manufactured for marketing purposes.

I guess fake tweets interspliced within other stolen content is modern marketing 101.


>> modern marketing 101

No, it's false advertising and misleading business practices, if not plainly illegal. The regulations just haven't caught up to this because politicians are terrible at understanding how this works and the public doesnt care.


Famous people endorsing snake oil has been a thing since famous people and snake oil, instagram is just the latest way to serve it up.


I get that, but there are rules governing that on other mediums. There are specifics to every distribution channel that change how something like this occurs and the impact it has. Social media currently has 0 accountability or oversight.


>only see more stories of this level of social media marketing manipulation

Yes. See the news about Burning Man and the Humana Camp. Mobile right now can't grab the links easily but I will try to come back with them.


I mean, Im not sure the meta-deception could be anymore apropos given the topic and response. I think the backstory takes a good story and makes it an accidental masterpiece.


Except that Hulu paid Billy Mcfarland, whereas NetFlix didn't. I see Netflix as the more responsible party in terms of compensating bad actors in this case. With that said, I have a strong disdain for FuckJerry and their founder Elliot Tebele.


Mcfarland has been sentenced for wire fraud and his sentence includes restitution for Fyre festival; so it seems this complaint of hulu is nearly fungible (where Netflix seems to have offered direct restitution that may or may not have counted toward Mcfarland's debt)


The "FuckJerry" people apparently had final cut.


"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it"

Churchill

And indeed some of the awful screw ups that Churchill made at the start of WW2 (which bizarrely led to him being made PM) have been mostly removed from history - the Narvik campaign in particular.


That fuckjerry was involved doesnt really matter imho. I dont really care who specifically was to blame. The lesson is that the entire situation was allowed to happen. The individual personalities are secondary to the larger story. What matters is what physically happened. Blame and who made what decision doesnt matter to the lessons we should all take from the overall event. So some internal bias doesnt really alter my opinion of the doc.


It doesn't bother you that they could splice out any footage that would make themselves look worse? Or cut in footage out of context that would make themselves look better?


Having watched the movie I can't say that they got away with anything...the blame got evenly distributed


I dislike that FuckJerry was involved in Netflix's documentary and am happy to see them facing backlash over not just the Fyre Festival but their history of stealing jokes. But in regards to Fyre, I didn't really feel the need to see them face greater judgment (maybe that means their purported influence over the Netflix doc worked?). They were paid to shill and market for Fyre, but what's the indication that they knew that McFarland was acting fraudulently? How does their role make them significantly more complicit in the fraud than the photographer, who got paid for the viral glamorous Fyre ad he shot, and who ended up as a producer for Hulu's doc?

Maybe it comes down to how much influence you think social media has, in this incident and in general? I liked the Hulu doc, but found its focus and commentary on social media influencers (including the criticism of FuckJerry) as not being interesting enough to merit the time and weight it was given. Yes, it's inarguable that Fyre seems to have gotten a lot of Instagram views. But how much effect did that have on McFarland's ability to basically run a Ponzi scheme? My impression was that McFarland had already talked himself into Manhattan financial circles, and the firms who invested millions in Fyre/Fyre Festival were fools, but not necessarily the kind swayed by social media hype (i.e. similar to the backers of Theranos).

Undoubtedly, rich kids use and are influenced by social media. But McFarland already seemed to have enough of a network (he and Ja Rule had collaborated well before FuckJerry got involved) to convince enough rich kids to pay for tickets. To be fair, though, I don't use Instagram for anything except to check up on friends, so I'm admittedly ignorant about how influential Instagrammers can be. But Fyre seemed to be very much the result of McFarland's ambition and lack of morals, and his ability to convince naive people to work towards his goals against all logical odds. FuckJerry's support felt mostly tangential.


"what's the indication that they knew that McFarland was acting fraudulently?"

It's in the documentary- According to the Hulu documentary, FuckJerry was aware of the problems in the festival’s production, but proceeded full steam ahead anyway.

"How does their role make them significantly more complicit in the fraud than the photographer, who got paid for the viral glamorous Fyre ad he shot, and who ended up as a producer for Hulu's doc?"

Why do you think the photographer knew anything before arriving at the festival? The ad was probably shot very early.


the main issue is transparency

fuckjerry was involved in marketing the failed festival, then also involved in creating an "objective" documentary on the whole fiasco

obviously they have large incentives to cover up the extent of their knowledge and involvement in the scam

we will probably never know how much the fuckjerry founder/team knew about the extent of the fraud

the author is simply saying the documentary they produced is not an objective telling of the truth and is probably influenced by fuckjerry trying to manage optics after a large account it was profiting from went south

a lot of people didnt know that (myself included) and its good to know who is paying for things and why - transparency


You're right. I think it's easy to blame Jerry Media for their role in marketing the product but nobody blamed Samsung's marketing agency for the phones exploding. Nobody blamed VW's marketing agency when the cars were caught cheating emissions testing.


Those are pretty different. Samsung's battery issue was a defect that they issued full refunds and replacements for, it was not a case of false advertising or fraud.

VW was fraud because they were promising emissions levels that were not accurate and they knew the numbers were lies. VW plead guilty to criminal charges, had executives evicted from the company, and was hit with massive fines in response.

If FuckJerry knew that the things they were promising in their marketing were not accurate, they should be hit with fines as well and corporate criminal charges. These sorts of acts of fraud would never be allowed on TV or other advertising media. For some reason we give companies on social media a pass. Fraud and other financial crimes that happen on social media by businesses should be punished like they are on other media.


Another relation is that both Samsung Pr and Fuck Jerry minimized and deleted publicity (be it YouTube videos or instagram comments)


> what's the indication that they knew that McFarland was acting fraudulently

Even if they didn't know that McFarland was acting fraudulently, which I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, what they did was fraudulent and illegal on its own.


We should stop calling "Documentary" what is essentially some form of entertainment with some predefined narrative that looks like it is a documentary.

In this category for example:

- Supersize me

- Pretty much every Michael Moore movie


Every documentary that's not just raw livestream footage has a narrative. It is inherently inextricable to the work of editing and storytelling.


Since you bring up raw livestream footage, a quality example of a documentary which is just livestream footage is Jesus Camp. It's quite fascinating because the people who were filmed believe they are accurately represented (which they explicitly say in follow up interviews). But usually people that watch the film are horrified of the interviewees dogma.

It's an interesting example of genuinely truthful documentarionism.


When you say "just livestream footage" do you mean it's actually unedited? I'd expect that to be a painful watch in most cases and not terribly informative.

But the problem is once you edit, you unavoidably set a narrative by that process. Charlie Brooker (now most noted for "Black Mirror") years ago did a show "Screenwipe" which was a mixture of review show and factual pieces about how TV is made. One of the examples he shows is they got a bunch of people and shot "livestream footage" of them interacting, and then they took that one set of footage and re-edited it to produce different narratives. All the narratives seem like coherent understandings of things that actually happened - there is video footage after all, but all of the narratives are contrived in the edit suite and don't reflect reality. That's how "Reality Television" is made and it would apply to documentary footage - if it's edited, which it will be unless you're making slow TV (e.g. 4 hours of a man painting a wall or a woman knitting a scarf).

The vibe you're talking about, in which an interview subject believes they were truthfully represented but an audience is horrified, is basically the MO of another UK TV presenter, Louis Theroux. But Theroux would never pretend the edit suite doesn't give him the power to choose a narrative.


This seems like a really great litmus test. Documentaries usually tell a story of some event. If people that were on either 'side' of that event are relatively content with their representation then it's going to be a solid documentary.

Feels like in some ways that documentaries are increasingly reflective of the division in society. There are documentaries on topics I agree with that I find absurd simply because they misrepresent the 'opposing' side to be a mixture of radicals, idiots, and the misinformed. The notion of mutually respected disagreement seems to be increasingly absent in society.

Though even in things like Jesus Camp it falls into another fallacy. One group of outliers is implicitly taken to be representative of a larger group of individuals. My 'Jesus Camp' mostly involved messing with people while they were sleeping - dipping their hands in warm water, shaving cream on the hand then feather on the nose, etc. There were some sermons at the 'Tabernacle' and confession type stuff, but I have nothing but positive memories of it - even though I'm far from religious now a days.


> If people that were on either 'side' of that event are relatively content with their representation then it's going to be a solid documentary.

I don't believe that there are many people that would make particularly good judges of accuracy in their representation, and there are many divisive issues that just naturally make one side come out worse when the arguments are organized and laid out side by side.

Instead, I find the opposite problem concerning: when flawed and obviously fallacious arguments are sugar coated and presented as legitimate alternatives to arguments that make sense, or when facts and falsehoods are presented as though they are both a matter of opinion and debate. This may be done in an attempt to appease to either side of an issue but IMO only serves to further the division.

When I'm pro-skub and you're anti-skub, and skub has been proven to be harmful and the supposed benefits of skub have been proven to be hogwash, telling us that the facts are a matter of perspective and that both our opinions are valid is only going to further any division there might be between us. On your end because you understand it as a fact and not as an opinion, and on my end because now I simply think it's a matter of opinion and that my opinion is at least as valid as yours.

> Though even in things like Jesus Camp it falls into another fallacy. One group of outliers is implicitly taken to be representative of a larger group of individuals.

IMO the film was very clear about what it intended to depict. It focuses on a specific summer camp during one summer, events surrounding it and even more specifically on a few kids involved in it. That you take it to be representative of a larger group of individuals than those depicted in the film is not something I would blame the filmmakers for, but on the other hand perhaps a mistake that a lot of people would make easily.


Right - how do you document some subgroup without one one trying to make it into a generalizable truth about something.


I think few people believe things that have absolutely no justifiable basis behind them. Flat earthing, as perhaps some example of that, is in my opinion more about attention seeking behavior mixed with a bit of trolling than something people genuinely believe. But on normal issues, I think there are generally two sides to tell. And even if one side may be framed as being unjustified, so long as it is fairly represented I don't think people would generally take offense to it. The vaccination issue is a great example. I fully support vaccinations, but I also like to research all sides of issues and I was surprised to see how much of a difference there is between the way anti-vax types are popularly portrayed and their actual views.

In general people simply castigate anti-vax as completely misinformed people who know absolutely nothing. This [1] is a rather monumental report from the National Academy of Sciences that took an extremely in depth look at this topic. In that 866 page report they analyze the data on correlations between vaccines and all sorts of nasty things. And one phrase you might find worth ctrl+fing is "The evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship between". You'll find it repeated constantly throughout the report as the academy researchers come to their conclusion on the validity (or lack thereof) of a causal link between vaccines and all sorts of nasty stuff. And for many of these nasty correlations while the evidence is insufficient claim a causal link, it's also insufficient to reject it.

Of course this does not justify turning against vaccinations. Even if there is a causal link found between vaccines and some of these various issues, the possibility of significant numbers of people choosing to not vaccinate would be catastrophic. For instance we're right now on the cusp of completely eliminating polio, much as we did smallpox. In fact you are currently more likely to get polio from a vaccine than in the wild. And some people might use that as a reason to stop vaccinating. But if they did, that would rapidly change. The one and only thing that's bringing us to where we are is people choosing to vaccinate. So it comes down to a matter of social responsibility. Vaccines are not without risk but whatever risk there is greatly outweighed by the collective benefits.

So should you vaccinate? Absolutely. Yet I don't think any anti-vaxer would feel slighted by such comments. And I think you can provide a similarly fair treatment to most of all controversial issues today. The reason one side or another tends to think the other side is completely idiotic tends to get back to our divisions in society. People attribute disagreement on issues to stupidity or lack of knowledge without bothering to see why people feel the way they do.

[1] - http://nationalacademies.org/HMD/Reports/2011/Adverse-Effect...


Nothing can be free of bias but there certainly are different levels.


I'd go further than that and say that even raw livestream footage has a narrative, in the selection of what's being shown, the camera angle, even the title and everything else.


The media should cover White House press briefings with their cameras tilted in a Dutch angle, like Batman used whenever they're in the evil villain's lair.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_angle

Dutch angles were used extensively in the satirical 1960s Batman TV series (and its 1966 film spin-off) in which each villain had his or her own angle, as they were "crooked".


> predefined narrative

Having a narrative is not the same as reworking footage to tell a story you had in mind before doing any actual research.


"They Shall Not Grow Old" is probably the closest popular documentary I can think of to your ideal (that focuses on humans at least) -- and it still implicitly needs to weigh in on some narratives, for instance the evolving thinking on "did the generals undervalue their soldiers' lives or were they learning as fast as they could?".

If you really care about what happened at X, you have to read/watch/listen to multiple sources and synthesize. No one will do that for you without injecting their own conclusion.

fwiw, watching 2 documentaries and reading a HN thread is already more research than I ever expected to do on a failed festival.


Not the derail the topic too much, but was that film great? It looked like an incredible piece of work and a beautiful use of technology.


Micheal Moore movies have a built in point-of-view.... his. He doesn't hide this, it is part of the attraction.

I guess you could argue it is really commentary more than documentary.


It's like the opinion editor versus the daily beat editor. One is writing arguments and defending them, the other is trying to just present the facts of what happened.

Both are journalists, just different types.


No documentary in history has "just presented the facts of what happened". Footage is edited. Even documentaries that are exclusively interview footage are edited down from huge surpluses of material. When you choose the 1% of material to present, it is not possible to just present facts.


That’s not the point. It’s about whether the film maker sets out to be balanced or to act as an auteur.


Regardless of intent, it is inherently biased


I thought that what you just wrote is literally the definition for journalist vs reporter. if all you do is reporting the facts since you are a daily beat editor, you aren't a journalist?


Even reporters through the choice of facts can give a slant.

"Man saves kitten from housefire" is different once you throw in "that he lit."


That doesn't change the definitions. Doing a terrible job (by neglecting to mention vital facts) doesn't change what reporting is (and/or should be) and how it differs from journalism.


> Micheal Moore movies have a built in point-of-view.... his. He doesn't hide this, it is part of the attraction.

One movie I saw of his was intentionally misleading to a high degree in my opinion so I don't watch any others from him. To me, a point of view is to do with your subjective thoughts and value judgements. This should never involve twisting, hiding or being selective about objective facts.


> To me, a point of view is to do with your subjective thoughts and value judgements. This should never involve twisting, hiding or being selective about objective facts.

You cannot avoid that, as subjective point of view cannot avoid impacting perception of the relevance and importance of objective facts (which directly effects selection and the perception of “hiding”), and also what the important relations between those facts are, which affects organization and thereby the perception of “twisting”.


> You cannot avoid that, as subjective point of view cannot avoid impacting perception of the relevance and importance of objective facts (which directly effects selection and the perception of “hiding”), and also what the important relations between those facts are, which affects organization and thereby the perception of “twisting”.

Even though it's hard to 100% avoid bias, you shouldn't lump all attempts at telling a point of view as being equal. There's clearly a spectrum with the far end being propaganda and intellectual dishonesty.

I value the opinions of people who can objectively present both sides as well as they are capable of and who separate out which parts are subjective and their opinion. If someone shows the facts that go against their point of view, that makes them more credible to me.

Yes, avoiding all bias is close to impossible but that doesn't mean all people are worth listening to or can be trusted equally.


> Even though it's hard to 100% avoid bias,

It's not hard, it's impossible.

> you shouldn't lump all attempts at telling a point of view as being equal. There's clearly a spectrum with the far end being propaganda and intellectual dishonesty.

Attempting to tell a point of view is propaganda, whether or not it is dishonesty.

> I value the opinions of people who can objectively present both sides

What “both sides”? There's one set of facts, and often as many set of viewpoints as observers, even if there are two dominant clusters in public debate.

> If someone shows the facts that go against their point of view, that makes them more credible to me.

Yes, that's a common perceptual bias that skilled propagandists exploit.


"Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith."


I've always thought of them as 'infotainment'. Slightly informational entertainment. I'm not a big fan of a lot of newer documentaries for that reason. Part of me kind of misses the old dry 60's/70's style documentaries with some boring old dude describing facts in a boring monotone way.

There's been a few times I've just stopped watching some newer documentaries and just read a bunch of articles and information about the topic it was covering. I figure I probably learned more and got a more well rounded view in the same amount of time doing it that way.


Part of me kind of misses the old dry 60's/70's style documentaries with some boring old dude describing facts in a boring monotone way.

Are you sure you weren't being misled by the stylistic choices of those documentaries into assuming they hadn't made decisions about the narrative they wanted to present?


BBC documentaries are the only exception - it seems that it requires public funding to avoid trying to make documentaries entertaining in a way that defeats the purpose of watching a documentary.


What type of documentary doesn't have a narrative?


'Jesus Camp' doesn't have any narration, it only shows a glimpse of the religious kids camps. It's completely left up to the viewer to think the the camps are crazy or awesome. It's brilliantly done.

I don't remember if there was narration or not, but 'Word Wars', about competitive Scrabble, doesn't take a side (there's no side to take, really). It simply shows the competitors and the kind of zany world they live in.


I don't want to question your examples, but lack of spoken narration doesn't automatically lead to an unbiased documentary. It's pretty easy to build a narrative just through visuals, by selectively showing certain aspects and ignoring others.


People are still fooled by cinema verité and think documentaries (and news) somehow pop into existence by themselves, rather than through people laboring over transcripts of interview dialog and arranging them into a narrative order - and then seeking out further interviews and footage in order to fill the holes in that narrative.

So the type of documentary that doesn't have a narrative is the type of documentary that simply reflects the truth (as I see it.)


But even then the documentarian has to decide what to include and what not to include.

Obviously you can't have for example a Civil War documentary that is the raw truth of each person involved told in realtime. It would be 11 billion years long.

I don't see how any documentary can match your standard.


> So the type of documentary that doesn't have a narrative is the type of documentary that simply reflects the truth (as I see it.)

What you're asking for is an omniscient live-stream of events. Any even where someone felt it was worth making a documentary about will be one where there's a narrative. Can you provide an example of a narrative free documentary?


When I watch PBS Frontline I definitely feel I get more information. Obviously there is opinion too but I find it much better researched and thought out.


totally agree. There are way too many "documentaries" that are well produced and entertaining but are in essence propaganda pieces for a preconceived viewpoint. I much prefer "boring" pieces that actually try to document things without much spin.


Can you list a few documentaries that are, according to your definition, actually documentaries?

Edit: Why would anyone downvote this?


How It's Made, Nova, and Nature. To a (slightly) lesser extent, 60 Minutes and Frontline.

The term documentary covers (imho) a continuum, from academic style nonfiction on one end to a gray area between infotainment and fiction on the other.


Everything presented in 1-2 hours will be selective in what it shows and what it leaves out. Documentaries are really just primers on a topic; it is up to you to further the information you've just received into a meaningful perspective. That being said, there is a stark contrast between the "How its made/Modern Marvels" type of documentary and the "Ancient Aliens" type of documentary.


I've never seen a Michael Moore movie toted as a documentary, supersize me either. So I'm not sure where that comes from.

Although I would argue that Michael Moore movies are indeed great documentary on some aspect of American culture for a foreigner point of view.

The Fyre festival one looks much more like a documentary, perhaps with an agenda but it looks like it is re-tracing the steps while showing a shit ton of footage. So I'm still on the fence.


>I've never seen a Michael Moore movie toted as a documentary, supersize me either. So I'm not sure where that comes from.

All Michael Moore movies and Supersize Me are considered documentaries, categorized as such, labeled as such in screenings, participate in the documentary festival circuit, and so on. Moore even won an Oscar for "Documentary Feature". His wikipedia page reads "Michael Francis Moore is an American documentary filmmaker".

"Supersize Me" genre in IMBD is "Documentary". It was also a nominee for "Best Documentary" in the Oscars. Netflix marks it a documentary.

So, "if you're not sure where this [calling Moore's movies and Supersize Me documentaries] comes from", I can't even begin to understand where this doubt comes from. It's like a question from a parallel universe where those are not casually considered documentaries...


That seems odd. They're usually classified in the 'Documentary' genre (Amazon Prime Video, IMDB, etc).

The "Super Size Me" WikiPedia even begins "Super Size Me is a 2004 American documentary film". The entries for Moore's films in Wikipedia begin similarly.


He won the 2003 Oscar for Best Documentary with Bowling for Columbine, and was nominated for that same category in 2008 for Sicko.


Oh yeah, Bowling for Columbine was definitely a documentary. I think it depends on the movie.


I’m genuinely curious what your complaints there are, could you elaborate? What specifically disqualifies something from being a “documentary”?


> What specifically disqualifies something from being a “documentary”?

Not the OP, but it seems like the same type of thing that disqualifies an article from being a news report (and places it in the category of persuasive opinion piece).


Documentary is not news reporting done in movie form.

It's not supposed to be some "objective" filming of a real situation or a retelling of a story either. Some documentaries strive to that, others are whimsical, personal, subjective, surreal, and so on. Some include fiction, others create the situations they cover (and not just report on them). Modern documentary creators and festivals have embraced all kinds of narrative styles, from verite to mocumentary, and from first person narrative to surreal story fragments.

Documentary is more of an umbrella category with a very rich variety than a specific "verite" style genre or the typical "WWII/nature" stuff.

(I've worked on a few and studied the field)


Thanks for putting it in a single sentence!

I would say that + focus on emotions vs facts.


Those are not complains, but enough in my opinions that they should be classified as "infotainments" (as was said in another comment below).

The key things I see for being an infotainment:

- A predefined narrative that sometimes disregards facts (or more precisely nitpicks facts to fit the narrative)

- Focusing on extreme emotions and entertainment with shock pictures and statements.

Simply said, look at actual documentaries of historical events or on some scientific//geographical//political topics. The difference is huge.


Every documentary is going to do both those things to some degree. The creator is trying to condense real life events I to 90 minutes.


It will be interesting to see how this kind of thing plays out. Neflix made a deal with the folks behind Goop... they're basically anti science hucksters.

Where documentary that honestly approach's its subject with some sense of objectivity, and pure salesmanship starts and ends is an interesting question.

I always assumed documentations sometimes have a point of view, I mean we all do. But there are some that straight up are on a fundamental level, BS, straight advertising.


I think the key question is: would any other marketing company have done the same as FuckJerry, attempting to do the job they were hired for given McFarland’s ability to trick people into thinking the festival was going to be a good experience? Or did FuckJerry know that the people they were marketing to were not going to get the fun time they expected? This article’s detailed logs of who had what job title when on the production of each movie don’t seem to get at the relevant issue of fault. The alleged crimes here are the production and promotion of the festival, not the production of movies created by people trying to assign blame after the fact.

McFarland has been conclusively shown to be a con-man (eg. spammed the Fyre attendee email list selling tickets to nonexistent celebrity meet-and-greets while he was out on bail). We should take narratives that benefit him at the expense of people he lied to with a big lump of salt, given his ability to manipulate.


It could be as simple as FuckJerry having two things in hand: 1) footage and access to insiders 2) the failure of the festival making headlines and probably getting more attention than if it went off without a hitch

The logical solution isn't to just sit on these two things and write the whole project off as a loss, it would be to try and make at least some revenue off of the whole thing. I think any business in their position would have done the same.


It might be logical for FuckJerry to try to exploit the situation that they have already exploited once. It's not logical for Netflix to do business with them. From Netflix's point of view: It's reputational risk - you know these people were involved int he fraud and now you're going to publish their 'investigation' into it. Maybe FJ could have sold the footage and maybe sold the interviews, but anything involving them in a editorial role is propaganda. It has to be. They're not going to expose their business for the sake of one documentary.


> would any other marketing company have done the same as FuckJerry

Are you asking if ANY company would have done the same, or if EVERY company would do the same?

If it's the latter, there are many marketing agencies out there that want to market products that actually exist, and understand that marketing a scam is a potential PR nightmare, in addition to being unethical. Such companies will cancel a contract as soon as it becomes clear that the product cannot be delivered as advertised.


It seems like McFarland had an incredible ability to make people think he could overcome the issues with the festival and make it a success, which is why so many people worked day and night to try to pull it off. Are we supposed to believe the marketing agency should have predicted its failure and quit when so many people on the ground at the island didn’t?


What the people on the ground at the island wanted most was to get paid. Sounds like Fyre would have been a boon for the local economy and I think they assumed they would get paid even if the festival tanked, which is not unreasonable when someone shows up flashing lots of cash.

FuckJerry, on the other hand, had far more insider knowledge as well as the financial freedom to walk away from the project. They did not.

I think the only group that could be considered "true believers" like you describe are the Fyre employees.


Yes it was, and fortunately celebrities are now speaking out against FuckJerry's rampant plagiarism (stealing jokes) on their main Instagram account, which will hopefully pressure advertisers to stop working with them.


It's mind blowing that the agency, FuckJerry, that did the marketing for Fyre was contracted to make their own documentary about the festival. Seems like a huge conflict of interest and it shows when you watch it. I get that this isn't Frontline, just seems nuts when you think about it. Sure, let's have the same semi shady agency make their own take exonerating themselves.


It is an entertainment piece, not a historical report after all.


That's not a very good excuse for what has happened here, particularly since the "entertainment piece" was presented as a documentary.


Perhaps an opportunity for HBO to step in and make the canonical Frye Festival documentary.


There's enough material in both documents that a trim and merge of both would feel very comprehensive. My main complaint with both documentaries is that I would've liked to see more footage/interviews -- basically, more of a tick-tock recounting -- about the feeling of impending doom in the days, hours, minutes before the festival's date drew nearer and nearer. I've had some horrible all-nighters before deadlines in my life, but not on the scale of having just 48 hours to find food, housing, bathrooms, security, etc. for thousands of fans flying into a remote island.


I disagree. I'd consume several more hours of new Fyre content if it were available. If they've got more footage and people. Bring it on.


Agreed. A lot of the docs focus on the upper management and having to deal with the issues at a high level. I feel like a lot of the in person horror of overnight was fully missed.


Watch "7 days out" on Netflix, it's exactly this but for the opening of a restaurant (at least on ep1). It's stressful as fuck.


Or to step in and make a documentary about the making of the dueling documentaries.


Three words: Silicon Valley, Bachanalia


Fyre Festival is the kind of doc that is time-sensitive; people are watching it because it's good conversation fodder, not because it's an important topic to discuss in our modern society. Also a good way for Hulu to try to get some more brand recognition in the streaming wars.

If HBO came out with one 3 months from now, who would care? The news cycle would have moved on.


The actual festival happened (or rather, failed to happen) nearly two years ago.


Or perhaps they make a documentary about something more important/interesting rather than rehashing this one story.


I think there should have been clearer disclosure that the documentary was produced by Jerry Media, the same entity that it was covering as the promoter of the fyre festival.

But overall I don't think it's a huge deal.


Opinion: Yes. Just less of a malignant one.


I remember yelling at the screen during Fyre "Then you should have cancelled it!" everytime someone said something would have gone wrong. The fact that they waited until people were already on the island before the staff revolted speaks just as ill of the staff. They could have done that the entire time!

One of the thing that screamed out to me was how collectively lacking the entire organization was in business experience. Everyone was so young and only knew one or two jobs before this one - of course they would blindly follow. This is where people with a few more failures under their belt should have been able to stomp the breaks a lot sooner.


Seriously, to the FyreMedia staff, ~"We didn't know when we'd get paid, or in what amount, and often it was just in a bag of cash."

I can't think of many better reasons to leave a company, especially when you include their doubts about the festival.

In sum; I might not get paid, I'm getting paid sketchily in all cash, and I think my company/CEO is failing.


Easy to say, but don't underestimate the ability of a master manipulator with (at least temporary) access to capital. He had the skills to manipulate and the power to sift through people to find those most vulnerable to it.


"An earlier version of this article stated that McFarland had reached an agreement with Jerry Media to appear in Fyre in exchange for revenue to pay McFarland’s debts. The agreement stipulated the revenue would pay back ticket-holders who had been scammed."

Uuuh, how about paying the poor workers who were scammed out of their time and labor but didn't deserve it, before paying the rich lazy assholes who got what they deserved for being so shallow and gullible?


I can only hope the next Fyre festival is in a more dangerous location, with volcanos, quicksand, and brat eating tigers.


This is making me question my increasingly unused subscription. I might just cancel to express how little I want my money going to frauds like goop, fyre, fuckjerry, and the other moral leeches endemic of our time.


The true Fyre Festival documentary is 10 minutes long and can be found here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBPg5ftCMv8


For those interested, Swindled has a good podcast episode on the Fyre Festival.

http://swindledpodcast.com/podcasts/season-2/episode-04-the-...

And I highly recommend rest of their episodes too! http://swindledpodcast.com/ - A true crime podcast about white-collar criminals, con artists, and corporate evil.


Now for a documentary about the scam of making the documentaries.


I saw the Netflix Fyre doc, and neither the festival nor the documentary struck me as a scam.

The festival seemed like it was a tragic project run spectacularly into the ground by a sociopath with serious psychological issues. I mean, if it were "a scam" there would have been a "take-the-money-and-run" attempt. A scam is an intentional deception in order to gain profit at someone else's expense-- this wasn't that.

Instead, things just crashed horribly around him, a lot of people got stiffed, the concert goers ended up at an expensive vacation from hell but the promoters didn't make money (though they did get some beach time with super-models before the horrific project-death-march started).


Fyre Festival was a scam from the perspective that they were selling something they had no means of fulfilling. This became evident early on, and rather than refund/notify customers, the Fyre team intentionally hid information and pushed attendees to load more money onto a vaporware payment system that didn't exist.

Even in the Netflix doc, it was shown that the founder, Billy McFarland, was raising festival funding under falsified information. The fact that he went on to scam the Fyre account list with fake tickets later just shows that he was scamming from the start.


We just need more granularity in the term "scam", like we have with manslaughter. There's something like this going on:

Bernie Madoff : First Degree Murder :: Billy McFarland : Negligent Homicide


I think the word you're looking for is fraud. Securities fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud. How many counts, billions of dollars involved, etc.


Fyre was definitely a scam. McFarland was lying to investors, employees, and customers. He ignored professional advisors, and refused to cancel the event when it was clear a few weeks before hand that the products and services he had sold to people were not real. He accepted money for things that he had no way of fulfilling. That's a scam. Madoff may have done more scamming involving more money, but both were scams. McFarland was using later customers money to try to fulfill promises made to the earlier customers. And that isn't even starting to consider the real wire fraud he was committing the whole time behind the scenes, and the later fraud after he was out on bail.


McFarland raised money from investors using forged documents, that's Madoff level fraud


Are you kidding? It absolutely was a take the money and run. It was obvious weeks out that they were not going to be able to deliver on what they sold and instead of issuing refunds and cancelling the event, they took the money and ran, and continued to hire folks to build the thing without any money to pay them.


Your comment doesn’t really contradict the parent’s point that they kept trying to put on the festival.

I can agree that they were greedy and criminally delusional, but I can also believe they really did believe they could deliver the event.

If it was just an elaborate get-rich scam from the get-go, they’d have wasted far less money trying to produce the event.


It was not that obvious to me. I think it was malicious, yes, and it was insane, true, but I can see how they could have thought that they would be able to make it. By make it I mean, charging enough money, and getting people to have an OK experience. Probably they thought people would just lie like they're use to do on instagram anyway.


What. How did you watch it and NOT think it was a scam? He (Billy McFarland) literally lied to the investors. He lied to people who were paying for the event. Lies on top of lies. He WAS intentional deceptive. Not sure how you missed that aspect after watching it? Yeah, he MAY have had an actual dream of a real festival during it, but that doesn't negate the fact that he still deceived and lied to many people involved with the project.


The parent’s main point was they really did intend to put on a festival, rather than just disappear with the cash. Yes they deceived and lied to a lot of people; no one disputes that. But they still did seriously intend to run a festival, as ridiculous an idea as that was.


They advertised luxury accommodations, knowing full well that people would be placed in FEMA tents. That, along with many other facts the lied about or failed to disclose, qualifies it as a scam.


to me it sounds like a condensed story of Theranos on fast-forward - delusional main characters stretching their already unreasonably stretched "fake it until you make it" well into outright fraud territory.

There is probably some point, a kind of mental Rubicon, where, once crossed, they feel that there are only 2 possible outcomes - either prison or triumphal success and they just double down...


You make the excellent point that Billy McFarland presents as a sociopath. In his mind, he simply didn't believe it was possible for the Fyre Festival to fail.

Did anyone notice how dilated his pupils were in the Hulu documentary? Eerie...


It would have been a more believable documentary if they'd have covered the obviously rampant cocaine abuse of the people running the show. Like so many underground raves, they probably planned on bailing themselves out by dealing to the rich attendees, who came expecting to party on "Pablo Escobar's Island". I'll bet that plan came crashing down because there were some big shipments other than bottled water that they failed to release from customs by "taking one for the team".

https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/wd4ymw/can-you-tell-what-...


Fodder for a third documentary!


I think you might be on to something here...


I tend to err toward agreeing, except, and hulu covered this better, the keys to the Villas "went missing" and some towards the lack of a sufficient production company.


It's almost impressively sleazy that the dirtbags at that "influencer" marketing agency were able to double dip on this scam while simultaneously gaining the ability to spin things in order to make themselves look better.


Netflix has become an increasingly sketchy company. I've been more and more turned off by their aggressive UX patterns designed to push you into watching more content, not to mention their self-professed battle against sleep (https://www.fastcompany.com/40491939/netflix-ceo-reed-hastin...).

I picked the Hulu documentary because I felt in my gut that it would be more trustworthy. Looks like I was right.


For 400 people a whole documentry.

We know how to drag things along


i don't see why an advertising agency should be held accountable for a failed product or event. they just advertise.


If the allegations are true, they should be held accountable for advertising for something they knew would go wrong, and for hiding criticism that would expose that.


how should they know that? even after watching the documentary I can totally see why people believed it is possible. I mean - technically it is possible - just very hard to pull off. and with that hyped up "can do" mentality all over the place I know why people unintentionally fail to think critically.


haha I thought about this too, they are milking this so effectively!

they get to make their own meta-memes about it too!

every startup spending two hour meetings on a hashtag that nobody will use needs to learn from this instruction manual.


It sure is entertaining.




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