fyre festival

This Is Billy McFarland’s Fyre Festival Comeback Plan

Billy McFarland Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP

Josh Raab didn’t find Billy McFarland; Billy McFarland found him. Or, rather, his girlfriend did. In late February, Raab — a freelance editor who has worked with Al Gore and Garth Brooks, among other celebrities — received an editing query from a stranger named Ana. “Last month 2 documentaries came out about the FYRE FESTIVAL but unfortunately both misrepresented the real events and Billy would like to share his story,” it read. Raab’s interest was piqued. “In my experience, if you write back fast as possible, you get the job,” says Raab. “I saw it right when I woke up and I responded right away.” She rang him ten minutes later. McFarland, she said, was writing a book, tentatively titled Promythus: The God of Fyre. Did Raab want to hear more about the project?

The call would lead to a series of phone calls and emails with McFarland himself over the next weeks, giving Raab an in-depth look at his comeback plan — specifically, a self-published memoir due out this spring.

Ana is Anastasia Eremenko. She started dating McFarland after Fyre Festival went down in flames, but claims she did not know anything about his transgressions when they met. A Russian model, Eremenko is one of her boyfriend’s few remaining advocates in the outside world. She appears in Hulu’s documentary, Fyre Fraud, reading letters he’s written her from prison. “Billy loves Anastasia,” she says in the film, pointing to a stack of loose-leaf paper dotted with blue ink that she’d received from the Federal Correctional Facility in Otisville, the medium-security prison in upstate New York where McFarland is serving his six-year sentence for fraud related to Fyre Festival. His sentence also includes time for selling fake tickets to high-profile events like the Met Gala while he was out on bail.

Handwritten letters, Eremenko told Raab, is how McFarland has been delivering pages of Promythus. He writes the pages in longhand and mails them to Eremenko to type.

Eremenko and Raab, in initial emails and phone calls, discussed a few details about the book project. McFarland, through Eremenko, said it would be about 800 handwritten pages worth of text when he was done writing. Raab told Eremenko it would take about a month and a half to edit. Raab says he brought up signing an NDA and was told he’d be sent one. It never materialized. Instead, Raab was connected to Brandon Rubinshtein, a publicist who also represents Dennis Rodman through his non-public-facing PR firm, Dog Shit Media. Eremenko, McFarland, and Rubinshtein did not offer comment for this story, despite repeated attempts to contact them, including a letter sent to McFarland.

“I think Brandon was just like, sniffing me out,” Raab says. “I gave him a very basic outline of my workflow.” Raab passed the smell test. Eremenko told him to expect to hear from McFarland soon, warning him not to be alarmed when he received a call from a correctional facility.

Over the following weeks, McFarland explained his vision over phone calls and emails with Raab. The book, McFarland said, chronicles his career from the first investment in a now-shuttered start-up back in 2011 to the FBI paying him a visit days after the festival imploded. Rubinshtein provided Raab with a bullet-pointed, name-dropping list of selected stories, the sorts of “great and terrible moments” McFarland planned to highlight. Actors, models, musicians, people who are only famous because their parents are, cameos from members of the Trump administration, the list goes on and on. Much of McFarland’s plan centers around telling what he calls the “raw” story, the story he feels that the Hulu and Netflix documentaries — both released in January 2019 — failed to fully depict. McFarland was sentenced in October 2018. Rubinshtein told Raab that McFarland has not seen either documentary.

McFarland has said he found inspiration in Jordan Belfort, who was sentenced to 22 months in prison in 1999 for stock manipulation. His memoir, The Wolf of Wall Street, was turned into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio in 2013. He also drew a comparison between himself and Molly Bloom, the Olympic hopeful turned underground poker ringleader whose memoir was adapted into an Aaron Sorkin movie in 2017.

McFarland is scheduled for release in 2024 and has been ordered to pay $26 million in restitution. He told Raab he plans to use profits from the book to help cover those costs. McFarland claimed in his emails he’s been struggling to “fully come to terms with” how the collapse of the festival affected the Bahamian people but hoped to give away additional proceeds from the book to Bahamians, vendors, and ticket-holders. He also said the organizers spent about $40 million on the festival and that many of the vendors had been paid more than enough. McFarland said he is still trying to figure out where things went bad with those vendors, including MaryAnn Rolle, the restaurant owner in Great Exuma whose appearance in the Netflix documentary prompted a GoFundMe campaign that raised $200,000 to help make up her lost savings.

McFarland stood by his plans to self-publish the book on Amazon at the end of April, according to Raab. (As of May 3, the book has not been released.) Over email, he dropped vague hints to explain the rush job. “Putting in terms of Wolf of Wall Street, the Festival will not be a one and done event — it’s happening again, so the original story will lose the potential to be told and set the stage if it’s not done before the next events take place.” He didn’t offer any more information on future festivals.

“I told myself I’d work on this book if Billy was actually having this weird, monkish experience,” Raab says. Ultimately, he told McFarland he didn’t think the book he’d described would be a “worthwhile addition to the general discussion” and declined to work on the project.

That was, Raab thought, the end. Then, not long after sending that email, he heard from Brandon Rubinshtein again. The two met at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. Rubinshtein continued to talk about the project, Raab says, including their plan to enlist Andy King to do publicity for the book since McFarland is behind bars. King is an event producer who reached viral fame for a clip in the Netflix documentary in which he said McFarland encouraged him to prepare to “suck dick” to get water for the festival. (He has subsequently been offered several reality-television deals.) Raab also says Rubinshtein made wild claims, like that Ryan Seacrest had visited McFarland in prison to discuss plans to purchase the name and remount Fyre Festival himself. (People close to Seacrest said this was untrue.) Raab says Rubinshtein also claimed he’d reached out to Walter Isaacson, the writer and journalist behind the 2011 best-selling authorized biography of Steve Jobs, about working on Promythus. He didn’t understand why Isaacson wasn’t returning his calls. When reached for comment, Isaacson asked who Billy McFarland and Brandon Rubinshtein were.

This Is Billy McFarland’s Fyre Festival Comeback Plan