Seth Rogen and The Lonely Island are teaming up to make a new movie. Now that news alone would usually be worthy of interest, but it’s this film’s parallels with an unfolding event (one that actually provoked their announcement) that’s so intriguing; both sides of the production tweeted out on Friday night about how the project they’re developing bears a striking similarity to the disaster that is Fyre Festival.
Set to take place on a private island once owned by Pablo Escobar and boasting a setlist that included the likes of Blink-182, Major Lazer, and Migos, Fyre Festival was billed as the ultimate luxury music event, with tickets ranging from $1,000 to $12,000 for a two-weekend party. Of course, it soon revealed itself to be something hellish as horror stories came out thick and fast. First was the announcement artists were pulling out due to an unsatisfactory setup. Then it emerged the venue attendees were presented with was a rundown strip rather than the utopia promised; instead of villas there were white tents and the only food available was bread and cheese. Some ticket-holders were diverted from the actual event location to a nearby beach where they were plied with alcohol, and when they finally made it had their belongings locked in a giant shipping container as the lack of coordination led to utter chaos. As fires erupted and violence ensued, none of the festival staff were responsive and the whole thing eventually devolving into something resembling a refugee camp. The mess continues to unfold, with guests struggling to get off the island at the airport and the festival pleading with everyone to stay put while they fix it.
It’s the sort of thing that if found in a movie would be deemed ridiculous. And for The Lonely Island crew must have hit very close to home. It’s not known how far along their project is or even what angle they’re taking with the “music festival that goes wrong” picture, but in the wake of such a culturally impactful disaster, perhaps there are some things from Fyre they can learn.
What Will Rogen and The Lonely Island Have Planned?
Going back through Rogen and The Lonely Island’s work actually gives a good idea of what we can expect from the film.
The quartet actually collaborated before on the viral music video “Like A Boss”. Spinning off of office culture, the framework is Rogen enacting a performance review for Andy Samberg’s self-proclaimed boss. It starts normal – pretty much a rap version of Bill Lumbergh from Office Space‘s day – but quickly spirals downwards thanks to workplace rejection and suicide attempts before Samberg castrates himself and flies into the sun. It’s as brilliantly bonkers as it sounds. Check it out below.
Although if we really want a feel of what to expect, we should turn to the separate endeavors. Being so musically inclined, The Lonely Island released Popstar last year, and despite a poor showing at the box office it was a pretty great comedy that riffed on well-known documentary tropes and pastiched the entertainment business wholesale (a TMZ mick take was a highlight). On Rogen’s side, his self-produced films tend to be a mix of celebrity ribbing (see: the absolute bastard that is Michael Cera in This Is the End) and big, obvious commentary (Sausage Party‘s multiculturalism and End‘s Hollywood hedonism, which in both cases are barely even subtext).
From that, you’d expect these various elements to come together; a culturally-aware film that spears what it’s like to attend a music festival as both a fan and an artist and turns it up to 11, moving from disgusting toilets, poser fans and losing yourself in a sea of tents to something genuinely hellish, perhaps even making a comparison point to being herded like farm animals (or similar), all scored to a diverse range of original songs. Based on their previous efforts, that’s something Rogen and Samberg fans will be interested in seeing as is, but in the wake of it happening for real there are a few fresh things to bear in mind.
What Can They Learn From Fyre Festival?
The Fyre Festival fracas isn’t even over at the time of writing, but some details are already becoming solidified in its narrative.
The biggest is an overall sense of impending doom. Per Chloe Gordon (writing in NY Mag) who worked for a week as an event coordinator before quitting due to how poorly managed the whole event was, the failure was evident months ago. Acts weren’t being paid, no plans had been made to deliver on the accommodation promises and half the team was culled with just six weeks to go. It feels almost reductive to have to say, but music festivals take a lot of time, effort and money to pull off, so if something goes wrong it’s likely to be linked to a fundamental issue with staffing, venue or another essential cog. When we look back on Fyre, that inevitability is going to be dominant, which is something that can only make a movie on a similar subject more dramatic.
What’s really been essential to the whole Fyre Festival story, though, has been how it’s played out around the world in almost real-time. Attendees have been posting regular social media updates in disbelief since things first went south, with every step of the way documented on Twitter and collated by various new sources. It’s an almost ironic turn for an event billed as being for online influencers, turning their ire almost instantly into memes, but what it ultimately does is highlight the unique way such new stories unfold in 2017; due to the scale of the response it actually influenced events on the ground, with Fyre’s pithy attempts to contain the problem in response to the outcry. Rogen and Lonely Island are sure to have included elements like this – Popstar was heavily in tune with how news develops – but Fyre has taken social to almost farcical levels, and to not lean heavily on it as part of the festival experience would be a serious oversight.
And then there’s the context. When the dust has settled and the unlucky ticket holders have finally made it off the most disorganized island trip since Lost, the Fyre narrative is likely to be one of failed opulence, with the scale of the disaster amplified by the massive ticket price. Fyre was by design an elitist event, and – not trying to disregard the horrors that have unfolding – that gives the outcome an almost socialist underpinning. This class divide is already a charged part of the expensive festival scene – it’s the entire joke around Coachella – and as we know Rogen loves his commentary. Fyre gives a perfect reasoning for him to really steer into that.
In the long run, Fyre Festival’s biggest influence on Rogen, Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone’s film may simply be increased interest; think how the Sony email hack made The Interview a major talking point, just without the direct threat of World War III. Indeed, it’s already made their announcement more impactful and will charge countless discussions when it finally gets to release. They can continue completely on the same track they were before, making the film as planned, and let any comparisons be up to the audience.
However, the real-life playing out of a movie plot raises several essential conditions that a festival-gone-wrong film would now feel slight without. Going all-in on satire of this one event wouldn’t be the smartest move – it’ll be a good couple of years old by the time the film makes it to multiplexes – but a few sly winks, meta or otherwise, can only strengthen the whole.