Netflix’s ‘Fyre’ director explains how getting the footage of the NYC VIP Access ticket-selling scam was ‘kind of an accident’

Billy McFarland in

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Billy McFarland in “Fyre.”
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Netflix

  • The director of Netflix’s “Fyre,” Chris Smith, told Business Insider the footage that shows the Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland doing the NYC VIP Access ticket scam was found by accident.
  • Smith said the footage was part of a shoot an artist named Kindo did of McFarland while he was out on bail. Following McFarland’s rearrest in connection with the ticket scam, Kindo realized he had shot McFarland doing the scam.
  • “It was kind of an accident,” Smith said. “They didn’t even understand the significance of what they had captured until Billy was arrested.”

You might have assumed that after Billy McFarland pleaded guilty to fraud following the Fyre Festival debacle, he would have kept a low profile. But that wasn’t the case.

As Netflix’s “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened” shows, McFarland was back hustling in early 2018 while on bail awaiting sentencing for two counts of wire fraud related to Fyre.

The movie closes with McFarland living in a New York City penthouse and having an artist named Kindo film his every move. That included being the brains behind a ticket-selling scam called NYC VIP Access.

In front of Kindo’s cameras, unbeknownst to Kindo, McFarland and his team were flooding the inboxes of many in the Manhattan social scene – including some who had already been burned buying tickets to the Fyre Festival – to offer tickets to Coachella, the Masters, the Grammys, celebrity meet-and-greets, and even the Met Gala.

McFarland in his New York City penthouse while doing the NYC VIP Access ticket scam.

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McFarland in his New York City penthouse while doing the NYC VIP Access ticket scam.
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Netflix

In the footage, you can see McFarland crafting what the emails should say and telling people to call potential buyers twice because “everybody picks up on the second ring.”

Though McFarland and his crew were ultimately able to get $100,000 from the email blasts, reports began to surface that NYC VIP Access was a scam. For example, there aren’t even tickets to purchase for the Met Gala – all guests are approved by Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour.

McFarland was rearrested in connection with the ticket-selling scam in June, a week before he was to be sentenced on his original charges. He’s serving a six-year prison sentence for wire fraud.

Read more: Netflix’s “Fyre” director hits back at Hulu’s whitewashing criticism and says the Fyre Festival founder wanted $125,000 for an interview

Hulu’s Fyre Festival documentary, “Fyre Fraud,” also touches on NYC VIP Access, but Netflix’s doc has the edge on this chapter in the McFarland story because of Kindo’s footage. And its director, Chris Smith, said that getting his hands on that footage was a stroke of luck.

“We were introduced to Kindo early in the process because he had a lot of Magnises footage,” Smith told Business Insider, referring to the high-end membership-card venture McFarland launched before Fyre. “He had documented a lot of footage of the time he spent in and around Magnises.”

Following McFarland’s ticket-scam arrest, Smith got a call from Kindo.

Footage from

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Footage from “Fyre” of McFarland, left, giving orders for the scam.
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Netflix

“When Kindo read about the ticket scheme, his team went back to the footage and realized they had actually documented them selling the tickets,” Smith said. “It was kind of an accident – they didn’t even understand the significance of what they had captured until Billy was arrested.”

Smith said that was the biggest challenge with making “Fyre”: It seemed that every road he went down there was another layer of the McFarland saga to tell.

“There was always someone else to film,” he said. “I still had a list of 50 people to interview when we finished.”

So does that mean he’s thinking about a sequel?

“At the moment, Fyre feels pretty saturated,” Smith said with a laugh. “I have a number of other things that I’m working on, so as time goes on it seems less and less likely.”

“Fyre” is available on Netflix.