On January 18th, Netflix and director Chris Smith (Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond) will take the morbidly curious and sincerely fascinated alike behind the scenes of one of the greatest music event train wrecks of all time, Fyre Festival. The streaming service’s new in-depth documentary, FYRE, takes a deep look at the “boutique festival” that never was, with a particular focus on the conman behind it all, co-founder Billy McFarland.
In a new trailer for the doc, we’re given a glimpse at some of the interviews Smith was able to score. There’s the development team behind the festival’s website, the Bahamian workers exploited for intense on-site labor, event producers, and even attendees who went into full-on looting mode once they saw how they’d been duped. Everyone had something new and shocking to reveal, including behind-the-scenes discussions between McFarland and his co-founder, Ja Rule.
“It [started as] an exploration into the story and then it just kept unfolding in a million different directions,” Smith told EW. “At that point, there was no turning back.”
Smith also tried to get McFarland to sit down for an interview, but was ultimately unsuccessful. “We were set to film with him on two different occasions,” Smith explained. “We had a camera and a crew and we were ready to go and then it would just get postponed right at the last minute. And then it just never ended up materializing.” He later added that McFarland wanted to get paid for his appearance in the doc, something Smith wasn’t comfortable with. (McFarland, by the way, is currently serving six years in prison for fraud.)
Even without McFarland’s involvement, there’s still plenty of gripping, mind-blowing stuff to learn in FYRE. Get a taste by checking out the trailer below.
Smith said he collected so much material that he and his editors considered making the whole thing a docu-series. As he explained,
“We actually were going back and forth between the two and I was really interested in exploring it. As we worked on it and kept working with the material, there were a million stories that were all interesting about the build-up to the festival and there was all this footage of the promotional video being made and all these stories that took place on the island. But in terms of moving a narrative forward, a lot of the times they felt similar but different. We actually were cutting a [docu]series and a feature at the same time. We were cutting a parallel edit. In the end, we just felt that the feature was stronger, that the story and this event and the character study all felt very contained.”
It’s probably a good thing the filmmakers went the full-length direction, as a longer format would compete with Hulu’s own planned docu-series about Fyre Festival. Not much is known yet about the in-the-works series, but The Cinemart (JAY-Z’s Spike miniseries TIME: The Kalief Browder Story and his Paramount Networks series Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story) is producing the series with director Jenner Furst (TIME).