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"...a couple of powerful models posting an orange tile is what essentially built this entire festival, and then one kid with probably 400 followers posted a picture of cheese on toast that trended, and essentially ripped down the festival."

Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is a 2019 documentary produced by Netflix and directed by Chris Smith (Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, American Movie), about the infamous 2017 Fyre Festival, a fraudulent music festival that ended in failure, organized by entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule.

The festival was meant to promote the new Fyre music booking app, and they hired celebrities and models from Instagram to be part of the promotion, including no less than socialite Kendall Jenner, model Bella Hadid, model and actress Emily Ratajkowski, and others. The advertising promised luxury villas and gourmet meals for all attendants, as well as performances from blink-182, Major Lazer and others.

The documentary details the long, long series of bad decisions and carelessness on the part of the organizers, mostly McFarland, and the weekend itself, where the luxury villas were disaster relief tents, and the gourmet meals were unappetizing, pre-packaged cheese sandwiches. One of these sandwiches was posted to Twitter, went viral, and turned the festival, its organizers, and the attendants, into an internet laughingstock.

See also Fyre Fraud, Hulu's own Fyre Festival documentary released within just a few days of this one.


Tropes found in Fyre:

  • Abandoned Camp Ruins: Invoked. Some of the attendees at the Fire Festival, trying to camp overnight, ripped up the sleeping bags and urinated in tents nearest to them, so that nobody would get too close to them.
  • Answer Cut: Billy's videographer Kindo mentions that during Billy's post festival scam, he was accompanied by a guy named "Angelo". Kindo claims he didn't know who Angelo was, other than he was "well connected". We then cut to a shot of Angelo talking to Billy...
    Caption: Angelo Roefaro - Press Secretary for Senator Chuck Schumer
  • Bad Boss: Billy is presented this way. He refused to listen to his employees' concerns, and when the festival went up in flames, he unceremoniously fired several of them in such a way that they can't receive unemployment benefits.
  • Belated Happy Ending: For the employees in the Bahamas affected by the Fyre Festival, shortly after the film was released.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Billy is sent to jail for six years due to his scams and wire fraud, but left some of his employees in truly massive amounts of debt and royally betrayed everybody who loved and respected him. The patrons who went to Fyre did win the case that condemned Billy as a scammer, but they will probably be mocked by people who misunderstand their plight for a long time to come.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Billy built the entire Fyre Festival on lies, but it's even worse when, after having pleaded guilty to defrauding his investors and awaiting sentencing for that crime, he tries to pull a second scam selling "exclusive tickets" for events like the Met Gala (which does not sell tickets - its guests are handpicked by Anna Wintour), meet-and-greets with Taylor Swift (who does not do meet-and-greets), and the 2018 Victoria's Secret fashion show (which hadn't even been cast at that point). And he did all this on camera.note 
    • Shortly before the festival, festival goers were submitted to a barrage of emails claiming that the Festival would be entirely "cashless" and they had to charge up an RFID bracelet with money to use to pay for things on site, with said emails "recommending" that the bracelets be charged with at least $8,000. There were zero places to use the bracelets on-site and all of the money charged went straight to pay for Fyre's massive debts.
    • One of the interviewed organizers mentions a moment in which he was sent a first draft of Fyre's letter attempting to apologize for the whole mess and he went utterly ballistic when he noticed that it started by saying that this happened "because of reasons beyond our control". As he says, they always had control and they still allowed the Festival to become a crap-fest.
  • Broken Pedestal: Many of the ex-Fyre Media employees who are interviewed admit they respected and looked up to Billy McFarland and his business partners as entrepreneurs, only to find out he was a Con Man and a Consummate Liar who left them all in dire financial straits after the festival tanked.
  • The Cassandra:
    • Financier Calvin Wells saw straight away that the festival was a disorganized mess and documented the evidence all over Twitter, and even got the Wall Street Journal to cover it. The festival still continued towards disaster.
    • Marc Weinstein qualifies as well, as his voice was among the loudest raised in protest at how poorly organized and planned out the festival was. The day before the festival he sent an email to Billy and Grant imploring them to cancel guests and then proceeded to describe the exact situation that would occur the following day: 300 people arriving on a remote island, shipped to a site that is nowhere near finished, and coming to the realization they have no place to stay and are effectively stranded on the island.note  Billy's response?
      Billy McFarland, Fyre CEO: At least they'll see your smiling face and yoga skills!note 
  • Cassandra Truth: When it became increasingly obvious that the festival organizers were way in over their heads, several workers tried to convince Billy to pull the plug on the operation. He refused to listen to them until it was too late.
  • Chronic Villainy: When Billy gets out on bail, he ends up trying to run another scam on the exact same people. All of this while under very close scrutiny because of the aforementioned bail and the nature of his crimes. This led to Billy being arrested again, this time without bail. Several of Billy's marks were dumbfounded that he'd try the same thing again, especially on the same people. When asked about it, some of them openly speculate that Billy simply can't help himself.
  • Closed Circle: One of the many things that went wrong was that there was no organization to help the partygoers leave the island once they had arrived. When the partygoers figured this out, it led to the first night of the Festival turning into a riot.
  • Con Man: Billy McFarland. A man born from the upper-middle class obsessed with being part of the New York's elite who creates two companies—Magnises, an "elite" membership card company that granted "exclusive privileges", and Fyre, the company responsible for the Fyre App. What the two companies had in common is that both over-promised and both underdelivered (or delivered nothing) yet Billy claimed that both companies were worth millions of dollars via the falsifying of documents in order to get investments from third-parties, and he would use that money to live a lavish lifestyle and make connections with plenty of rich people such as Ja Rule.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: The Fyre app the event was supposed to be promoting, an app for booking musical talent, was a pretty damn good idea on its own. Had the debacle never occurred, Billy and Ja Rule could be sitting pretty on a real business idea.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The entire Fyre Festival enterprise, pretty much from its inception. The organizers didn't give themselves anywhere near enough time (a little over 5 months, when most experts were recommending closer to 18 months were needed) or money to put on the show that they were advertising. It didn't help that the people running the whole thing kept ignoring advice and obvious hints that it was going to be a disaster.
  • Distinction Without a Difference:
    • Ja Rule denies that what they did was "fraud," and instead explains "I would call it 'false advertising.'" False advertising is a form of fraud.
    • Subverted when Billy terminates his employees, in that he's talking as though there is no difference but there in fact is. He tells his employees they aren't being "terminated", but there just isn't any payroll and they aren't officially employed anymore. As someone in that very phone meeting points out, since the employees are not actually being terminated, they cannot receive unemployment benefits and Billy does not have to pay them severance.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Between his mismanaging of the festival and gross disregard for his employees, several former Fyre employees and associates of Billy McFarland very frankly admitted that they told everything to the FBI when they came calling.
  • Dueling Movies: With Hulu's Fyre Fraud. This movie details a lot of behind-the-scenes things with Jerry Media, arguing that Billy McFarland was a Con Man who let things get way out of hand for the promise of some easy money. Fyre Fraud does the same, but also accuses everyone involved at Jerry Media of being in on the fix, arguing that this movie is Jerry Media trying to absolve responsibility.
  • Epic Fail: After all is said and done, the Fyre Festival will live forever as a textbook example of awful event planning and even worse execution. One of the interviewed people even calls it with this exact name.
  • Fat Bastard: Billy and Grant are noticeably paunch and flabby, neither one taking their shirt off at the beach or while outside.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Early on, McFarland inadvertently clues the viewer in on his worldview, when he casually remarks, "We're selling a pipe dream to the average loser."
    • Early on, Ja Rule and Billy McFarland make their notorious toast... "Here's to living like movie stars, partying like rock stars, and fucking like porn stars."note  Before long, it becomes obvious that McFarland couldn't care less what happened tomorrow, as long as today he was living out that toast. This ended up biting everyone on the ass as the festival started to go pear-shaped.
    • Keith van der Linde, one of the organizers who had an early part in setting the festival up, is trying to show Ja Rule and McFarland some of the planning and logistics they need. At one point, someone spills a beer on Keith's charts. An exasperated Keith deadpans, "Great, you just ruined my sewage calculations." The others laugh it off, showing they have no idea what they're doing... and don't care.
    • Keith is discussing getting people to and from the island with Grant Margolin, one of McFarland's right-hand men (who, like most of the others, is in way over his head). He asks Margolin for help in figuring out a way to safely transport drunk guests off the island and back to a nearby cruise ship. Margolin interrupts, saying no one will stay on a cruise ship; everyone will be staying on the island. Keith's face shows that he now knows that the top people on this team — namely, McFarland, Ja Rule, and Margolin — are completely incompetent.
  • From Bad to Worse: From the island that the Festival was supposed to actually take place on becoming off-limits (thanks to the fact the promotional materials mentioned the island was once owned by Pablo Escobar; not only was that not the case, but the island's current owners had explicitly ordered them to not mention Escobar) up to the fact a rainstorm the night before the first day of the festival completely ruined the "villas"... and then it turns out that McFarland was a scam artist.
  • Hope Spot: Ironically, many of the organizers saw the rain storm that occurred the night before the festival as a gift from God, as it gave them an understandable excuse to cancel the event, citing the flooded tents and ruined festival grounds as proof that the festival couldn't happen. Marc Weinstein was stunned when Billy insisted the event go forward anyway.
  • Ignored Expert: Billy and Ja Rule hired many experienced, talented organizers to help set up the Fyre Festival, and then proceeded to completely ignore everything they said. Notably, early on, Keith says that the plan to house guests in tents on the island was impossible and creates a plan to charter a cruise ship to house guests and provide all the necessary infrastructure like bathrooms and catering, but is completely ignored. Before long, anyone who refused to be a yes-man either quit or was fired.
  • Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!: The film notes that videos and posts on social media were instrumental in the festival's downfall, particularly a single picture of a bad cheese sandwich.
  • I Reject Your Reality: Post-Fyre Festival, Billy McFarland refused to even consider the possibility he'd go to prison for his fraudulent activities, and continued living large and running the same kind of scams he did with Fyre and Magnesis. Those who knew and worked with him openly wonder if he was delusional, or simply didn't comprehend the deep trouble he was in.
  • I Warned You: Many of the interviewees recount how Billy McFarland just kept insisting on the festival moving forward, even when everyone — from the contractors and the talent booking agent, all the way down to the caterers — insisted that the whole situation was a mess and that Fyre could not be done at all, let alone within the deadline that Billy had insisted on. One organizer, Marc Weinstein, mentions how he tried to get Billy to pull the plug and come clean about the problems going on behind the scenes, especially when the soon-to-be attendees began pointing out problems with Fyre's customer service, only for Billy to order his workers to delete all negative comments on the related social media posts in a vain attempt to cover the whole thing up. Several reporters and bloggers that obtained factual proof (including going to the festival site to record the tents) were told to stop their reporting, or they'd be prosecuted.
  • Just Following Orders: Discussed. Calvin Wells believes (as is argued in Fyre Fraud) that Jerry Media and the other agencies hired to promote the festival should also be held responsible for their part in the mess. Those responsible for the promotion claim they were just doing their jobs and ultimately were misled about Fyre's ability to actually pull off a festival of this scale. These employees also knew that this event would be a failure and tried to persuade Billy to scale it back or cancel it altogether, but were unsuccessful, and many of them (including Andy King) felt guilty about playing a role in the disaster by misleading people, unintentionally or otherwise.
    Brett Kincade, Director, Matte Projects: If you get hired to do a BMW commercial and that BMW then has a faulty engine, how the fuck can you possibly know whether or not they're gonna do good on what they said they were gonna do? That's like saying that the sound guy and the DP and the location scout has to do due diligence on whether or not something's actually gonna happen.
    Shiyuan Deng, Product Designer, Fyre: How could we ask the models to have the kind of awareness of the Fyre Festival that I myself didn't have, being an employee of Fyre Media?
  • Karma Houdini: Ja Rule, who despite being Billy's right hand man in this whole mess, barely suffered any consequence aside from becoming a subject of mockery on the internet.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Billy is released on bail, but sent to jail when he proceeded to try to run another scam on the same people he had scammed with the Fyre Festival while out on bail.
  • Laughing Mad:
    • The organizers went through this when a rainstorm hit the island the night before the festival, ruining the "tent villas" and turning the grounds muddy.
    • A Navy SEAL started laughing hysterically, saying that this was the worst clusterfuck he'd ever seen.
  • Malicious Slander: All of the festival-goers suffer this once the whole mess spreads through the media. While some of them are minor influencers and bloggers, many more were simply average people who thought they'd lucked out on a bargain vacation in the Bahamas; but in the eyes of public opinion, they're all a bunch of dumb rich people suffering Laser-Guided Karma.
    Ron Funches: If you had thousands of dollars to go on a trip to watch blink-182, that's on you. It's Darwinism at its finest.
  • Missing Steps Plan: One of the most confusing aspects of Billy's scheme is that it's incredibly difficult to discern what he believed he would have achieved or gained by getting himself tens of millions of dollars in debt in trying to needlessly rush out an unfinished music festival, and refusing to cancel said festival even after being repeatedly told that his company and reputation would be ruined beyond repair if it went forward.
  • New Media Are Evil:
  • No Delays for the Wicked: With "the wicked" being schadenfeude. The night before the Festival it rained and damaged the campsite, and everybody was hoping that the flights would be delayed even if just by half an hour so they could think what to do. In the Bahamas during the Regatta, this was pretty common, it's mentioned. The Fyre Festival flights arrived half an hour early.
    Marc Weinstein, Music Festival Consultant: It was like a sick joke. So... so... (starts laughing as he tries to continue with the interview) so....
  • Powder Keg Crowd: By the time nighttime fell on what was supposed to be the first day of the Fyre Festival and the attendants finally computed how screwed they were, things turned ugly, with looting and one attendee admitting that he wrecked and urinated on several tents around his to keep people away from his spot.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: At one point, Andy King goes to a customs official's office fully prepared to give him a blowjob in order to release the event's supply of fresh water. Fortunately, before he does, the official releases it on the condition that they will be the first ones paid once the event is over.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • No matter how bad things get, Billy McFarland just keeps going bigger. He's running scams even after being arrested. Many of the marks for the Fyre Festival openly wonder if Billy can't help himself but scam people.
    • At one point, the event's water supply was held up in customs, and Billy asked Andy King, his openly gay long time business associate and personal friend, to give the customs official a blowjob in order to clear it without paying.
  • Scenery Porn: Those shots of the tropical Caribbean islands surrounded by clear blue water are stunning. Indeed, the beautiful scenery was one of the selling points of the Festival.
  • Scenery Gorn: The Festival's actual camp, with FEMA relief tents, soaked beds, half-finished construction, shoddy lockers, dingy port-a-potties and lemonade stand-quality Concierge desks.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Many Fyre employees fled Great Exuma outright before they could address the disaster, when it became clear their lives were in danger from the many stiffed contractors who were demanding payments. Andy King mentions changing clothes with another man, hiding behind a urinal, and then getting smuggled out in a car while he crouched in the backseat.
  • Shoddy Shindig: The Fyre Festival is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most epic Real Life examples of this trope.
  • Smug Smiler: While not a bad fellow in any sense of the word, the bus driver was enjoying himself a little too much driving the attendees to the festival. He was smiling and laughing the whole way there while dropping numerous vague hints about it being a giant shitshow. By the time they started demanding to turn the bus around, he was practically in Evil Laugh mode.
  • Stupid Crook: Billy, post-Fyre festival, to the point where his few remaining friends and associates started questioning his sanity. While out on bail for the Fyre fraud and under intense scrutiny from authorities, he set up a new company called NYC VIP Access and attempted to sell tickets to exclusive events like the Met Gala, Coachella, and the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show (events he couldn't possibly have access to, let alone tickets). To sell them, he used the same email and phone lists from the Fyre Festival. In other words, Bily tried to scam the exact same people he scammed months earlier, many of whom were involved in a massive class-action lawsuit against Fyre Media. Even worse, Billy hired a film crew to videotape himself and his new business partners making the calls and sending the emails, oblivious to the fact that the authorities could (and did) subpoena the footage to use against him in court.
  • This Is Going to Be Huge: Andy King, one of the head organizers, mentions that he tried to keep a good view of the situation by thinking back to how the original Woodstock was an utter Hell on Earth but is still remembered fondly today as an incredible concert. Emphasis on "tried".
  • This Is Gonna Suck: When one of the buses arrives at the festival and the partygoers see that the promised "luxury villas" are actually disaster relief tents, all the passengers start groaning in sheer horror.
    Passenger: Turn this bus right around!
  • Troubled Productioninvoked: A Real Life example. The whole movie is a long look at the troubles that plagued the organization of what was supposed to be a luxurious festival experience. Between not having enough time, not having enough money, and a conman running the whole thing as a grift, the people who bought tickets to the Fyre Festival saw firsthand how much of a Shoddy Shindig the whole thing became.
  • Very False Advertising: The difference between the luxurious festival attendees were promised and the disaster tents they got is stark. Marketing also made it appear that the festival was still happening on a private island long after Fyre lost the right to use Norman's Cay; the official artwork on the website clipped and cropped the final location on Great Exuma to hide the fact that the festival was actually taking place in what was, to put it in the words of someone else who covered the event, basically the parking lot of a Sandals resort.
  • Wham Line:
    • It's not really surprising, but it still hits home. At about the thirty-minute mark, Marc Weinstein, one of Fyre's employees, talks about how he came to realize the festival was spiraling completely out of control. He went to Billy McFarland to warn him about it, and McFarland ignored him. At the time, Weinstein says he didn't know if McFarland was "a genius or a madman." When asked what he thinks now, Weinstein says, without hesitation, "He's a liar."
    • There's another one a bit earlier in the same segment, which acts as foreshadowing both towards the failure of the festival, how out of depth Billy is and the fact that he's a con man. The festival was booked during the National Regatta (which is the busiest weekend of the year on Great Exuma) making the finding of houses on the island for those who bought the "Villa Package" a practical impossibility. And then Marc is told that all the social media influencers who posted the promo video to kick off the social media campaign were going to get free housing.
      Marc Weinstein, Music Festival Consultant: Each influencer, and there were about 250 influencers, were promised, for a post, for one post, a one-bedroom, three-person villa on the beach... that didn't exist.
    • Andy King's recollection of what Billy asked him to do to release the water from customs in time for the festival. It really drives home just how desperate things got:
      Andy: (quoting Billy) "Will you...suck...dick...to fix this water problem?"
  • White-Collar Crime: Namely fraud, which was how Billy made his apparent "fortune".


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