The Fyre Festival took place two years ago, but one of the people behind the doomed Bahamas event still has so much left to share.
Oren Aks, the fan favorite from Hulu’s Fyre Festival documentary, “Fyre Fraud,” told HuffPost there’s “endless material” that hasn’t gone public.
The festival, co-founded by entrepreneur/fraudster Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, was hyped beyond belief thanks to an impressive social media strategy and glamorous advertising featuring gorgeous models in a perfect-seeming Caribbean setting.
Aks previously worked as an employee of Jerry Media, which was founded by Elliot Tebele of the controversial Instagram meme account FuckJerry. Jerry Media helped promote Fyre Fest and assisted with the festival’s social media and marketing.
The festival ended in chaos and McFarland serving six years in jail for defrauding investors and attendees.
“People are always like ... is there more?” Aks said. “And I’m like, ’Oh, absolutely, there’s more. ... We’re just getting started here.”
McFarland’s team struggled with logistical problems in the months before the festival, to say the least. Aks said there was an internal push to do something positive as the team was getting questioned about the event.
“They basically forced a campaign that was called ‘Save the Pigs,’ and it was to do a fundraiser to ― I don’t know what’s wrong with the pigs over there, but they were saying that there was some reason to do something for these pigs,” Aks said, referencing the Exuma boars seen in some of the promotional marketing for the festival. (The pigs, which are famous for their ability to swim, also made an appearance in the Hulu doc: One of them bit McFarland in the testicles while crews shot promotional footage of models.)
“They were like, ‘OK, we are looking pretty bad out there. Let’s spin something positive. Let’s do a fundraiser,’” Aks said of the Fyre campaign, for which he was the designer. “But again, it was like ... I’m trying to think of what the reason was for these pigs, like they’re not doing poorly. So I’m not sure what it was for.”
The pigs actually were not doing well, according to reports that surfaced in February 2017 ― about two months before the first weekend of Fyre Festival. A few of them had died.
The pigs, which were used to living in and foraging for food from the forests of their island, were apparently eating food tourists gave them on the beach and ingesting too much sand, National Geographic reported. There was also a decrease in fresh water on the island in the month before several pigs died.
“The end goal was that we created a bunch of merch that was like ‘Save the Pigs,’ and it had pigs coming out of the hat or on the shirt,” Aks said. “It was supposed to distract the public from the drama and just have everyone focused on what they love ― the pigs.”
Aks said nothing ended up happening with what he described as a “marketing stunt.”
“It actually never launched because I think some other drama came up and they were like, ‘OK, we have more fires to put out,’” he said, calling the campaign “all a distraction.”
Mick Purzycki, CEO of Jerry Media, told HuffPost that the company did not have any role in this campaign. Aks said that response made sense, noting that people working with Fuck Jerry “have no recollection of this event because how removed from the account they were” and that the pig-themed merchandise was a “FYRE initiative.”
“There is nobody at FJ anymore who would have been involved with designing this except me & discussing it with the CEO,” he said.
Organizers were faced with a lack of money, which led to an investing round during which Aks found himself catering to college kids in a fraternity.
At one point, the Fyre team got money from an investor who had a very particular ― and hilarious ― set of conditions. This person had a son in college who was in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
“It was a condition if his dad invests that we, Jerry Media, had to consult for this fraternity for this upcoming party that they were having,” Aks said, adding that the company was instructed to make the party, which was also sponsored by Fyre Festival, “pop off and go viral on the internet somehow.”
Aks said he was involved with a call between the investor’s son and Jerry Media, and that the company advised the frat member to make a video about the party and share it on YouTube.
“It wasn’t much of an effort, but it still had to be done for the Fyre team to feel happy about it and get invested in,” he said.
Purzycki said Jerry Media helped design a Snapchat filter to promote the Fyre Festival to people who might attend the fraternity party. “That was the extent of our involvement,” he said in a statement.
Aks handed over mockups of the Snapchat geo-filter, Instagram flyers and a party banner for the frat and said he didn’t hear anything about the party after it was supposed to have taken place. A second source told HuffPost they knew about the co-branded party and that the fraternity printed and used promotional banners Aks had created for the event.
Aks said he fielded requests from college kids about the party banners while also working on the Fyre Festival.
“I was just sitting there, getting all of this feedback from the fraternity guys, being like, ‘Can you change this? Can you change this?’” Aks said.
“And I just remembering being like, ‘It’ll all be so dope soon. Just pretend like this isn’t happening right now. I don’t have two degrees for nothing. This is fine.’”
Aks, who recently released a high-end rug collection, is staying away from music festivals these days.
He has given a few interviews since the release of “Fyre Fraud” ― and he says he’s getting inundated with offers from people who want to do another Fyre Festival. Even Ja Rule is apparently interested in doing another, but Aks has mixed feelings on whether he’d work with him again.
On one hand, he said he enjoyed working with the rapper ― he was always nice and complimentary of Aks’ work.
“I feel like I want to say yes, just because it’s Ja Rule and you kind of get hypnotized from celebrities and shit,” he said.
On the other hand, he said his “red flag warning sign is going off the charts right now.”
“Obviously I can separate my feeling from reality and I see what he’s done ― his role and all that. I wouldn’t join him in a venture,” Aks said. “But I don’t know. It would be cool to vindicate myself and get to work on a really successful music festival, you know?”