Note: To see all information currently available follow this link. However this will be a comprehensive review of why FannibalFest is a scam (or run by complete morons) and possibly both.
FannibalFest (Toronto) is allegedly a convention for Hannibal fans by Hannibal fans. Sound familiar? Yes, because that’s what Dashcon mostly was. A convention for Tumblr users by Tumblr users. Long story short about that, it ended up being a scam as well, possibly. It was that or the convention was run by complete morons. Possibly both. Seeing as how poorly handled FannibalFest is currently (and has been since it’s inception at the beginning of 2017) it’s headed the same way as Dashcon just on a smaller scale.
Why do I care enough to keep posting? For one, I’m not even against a Hannibal only convention in North America. In fact, I think it’s a good idea if it’s run correctly. This one isn’t. For two, I’m very sick of people easily getting away with scams in this fandom over shoddy merchandise or phony promises just because they have a recognizable blog name (I’m looking at you Laura Spencer). In any case, what I’d prefer to do here is warn people before the invest thousands in this for the utter disappointment it will become. Here are all the shady aspects of the convention (with proof to back it up) and questions left unanswered by all four of the alleged directors of the corporation.
FannibalFest Is Legally Now A Charity:
Lets start with the first problematic aspect in all of this, and the biggest one. FannibalFest being registered under non-profit status 501c3 which is a charity. According to the legal definition at least:
“…a nonprofit organization is exempt from federal income tax if its activities have the following purposes: charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering amateur sports competition, or preventing cruelty to children or animals.” –Source
This wouldn’t be a problem if they actually were benefiting a charity. If you look over their homepage you can see no mention of a charity or any less fortunate people (or animals) they intend to help with any sort of their income. The entire point of their organization is to throw a party, and not even in the United States. You heard that right. Despite filing for non-profit status in the US they have elected to have their convention in Toronto, Canada.
It also wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t repeatedly advertise themselves as a 501c7 which is meant for a social club, group, or private organization that is also non-profit. Something they claimed they would be doing when they launched the Kickstarter in January (more on that later).
We will have to take a look at what our next steps might be in getting backing to recoup outlay of money and funds needed to set up as a legal 501(c)(7) Non-Profit Organization/Club. –Source
The paperwork was filed on February 8th, 2017, officially making them a charity instead of a non-profit social club. Considering that they repeatedly said they would file for 501c7 status and not 501c3 status, and some how still managed not to do it correctly, it reeks of a scam and if it’s not a scam, it reeks of complete and utter incompetence on their part. I’ve done my research and read the papers they filed (which are public record despite their claims of being a private organization) and saw it for myself. You can see it for yourself here as well, where it clearly states 501c3 and the term 501c7 is never mentioned anywhere on the official documents.
As mentioned before, they have claimed at least once (publicly) To be a private organization and as such they do not have to declare what is going on with their funds that they are collecting from donations, which is painfully untrue seeing as how their type of non-profit is charity and they have to be 100% transparent with their funding under the eyes of the law. Even the tax forms they will eventually fill out (IRS form 990) requires them to tell the IRS how they have made their tax returns public. As of now, they should be transparent with their funds, especially as a non-profit organization with their filing.
I believe this to be the most disturbing part of whatever this convention is and it raises many questions. Since they told Kickstarter donors they were filing for a 501c7 (before doing it) and after the point they filed they claimed to be a 501c7 this raises an issue to if they know what paperwork they filled out, what they are filed under, and if they are knowingly claiming to be a 501c7 when they are actually a 501c3, both of which have very different standards, laws, and rules to abide by. If they knowingly are a 501c3, and lying about it, there’s a good chance they absolutely do intend to defraud a bunch of people.
FannibalFest Starup Fee Confusion:
The next concerning issue is what they are doing with all their startup fee money that they collected from the Kickstarter which ran from January 31st, 2017 up until March 2nd of 2017 and instantly had around 6 thousand dollars in it. Signifying that the committee put the money in there themselves to get things started. Not to mention that the best and very specific reward/backer tier of $1170 dollars was immediately all sold out and only two of them were sold. This one offers the best perks, covers the best deals, and even provides a hotel room stay. This was instantly unavailable to anyone who backed them because it was all taken on day one.
Then we have the matter of their startup fees and what they will allegedly cover. Also the problem of Norma E. Craig (Betsy) claiming herself as the president or owner or something, yet on the paperwork to file for the organization you can see that her and four others are listed as directors. This is relatively recent, but I digress. Here is their own list of startup fees and why they claim to need them.
There are several problems with this already and with proof I will explain each of the most problematic ones.
Website – Domain Name – Design: $1,125
This raises a bunch of questions. For one, if you just go look at their website you will see that it’s a cheap, basic, default template of a website that absolutely was not professionally coded or made by anyone. For two, they host off of a website called WIX which is basically a build your own website with built in free templates (similar to Tumblr). It costs a small fee for a year to host your custom domain through there plus a small fee per month to host. You can look at the hosting plans here if you want, but I’ve included a helpful diagram anyway.
Lets be generous and pretend that for some reason they thought they’d need the $25 dollar a month plan. This would only cost them $300 for a year. The domain name cost them no more than $10 dollars because they got it from a host called “Domains.com”. Besides, I’ve bought domain names before and .com domains are never more pricey than 10 dollars each. So, here’s the issue.
Website – Ten Dollars
Hosting – Three Hundred Dollars (with the most expensive plan and it’s highly doubtful that’s the one they used judging on the very basic template and design they have)
Rerouting/Custom Domain Fee – Thirty Dollars (general estimate based on what it typically costs to reroute a custom domain name on most sites)
When you add that all up you have $785 dollars left over to account for. If they used one of the cheaper plans to host/design their WIX website then it’s even more than that. Could even be up to $1000 dollars left over. Since they don’t list anything saying they hired someone to code the website (which wouldn’t be believable anyway since it’s a horribly designed site) and they don’t list they pay someone to run it (which wouldn’t be believable anyway since they barely update it) what is this $1000 dollars going towards and why? Is it going to their own pockets? Is it going to a charity they have yet to publicly announce on their website? What’s happening to this extra couple hundred dollars completely unaccounted for?
Con Runner/Event Planner Consultant: $650
This one is weird as there isn’t any clear person consulting with them. They claim it’s a man named Ben Penrod who has a convention of his own called “Awesome Con”. However, attempting to contact Ben via E-Mail or social media gets no answer about consulting for their convention. Furthermore, on his twitter and on his own website he has not once mentioned FannibalFest, endorsed it, spoke about it, or claimed to be a part of it. Wonder if he knows he’s supposed to be getting some of this money? Or did they just talk to him once and he said “yeah sounds like a good idea” and they pretended that was a consult?
The other weird thing about this is that their “Corporation” has an address which leads back to a marketing firm in Florida. A place that promises to do all the work of your event for you so you don’t have to do anything. The money could potentially all be going to them but if that’s the case they aren’t doing a great job planning any of this event beyond booking the hotel venue which at this point is most definitely booked. It is questionable where this money is going, who it’s going to, and what it’s being used for, since this Ben Penrod they mentioned seems to have no clue that FannibalFest even exists.
This is by far the most puzzling of all the expenses. Not due to the price amount but due to what this organization is supposed to be, an artist collective also run by artists. There are directors listed who are also artists and have art blogs on Tumblr to feature their artwork. Yet, for some reason, they needed $150 dollars to get a logo, in some way. Did one of their artists demand this much for a shitty logo or did someone else demand this much and they were dumb enough to pay for it? Especially when you can get a logo of this quality (or even better) on a website like Fiverr for far cheaper than $150 dollars?
Taken right from the headline to their Kickstarter they claim the following:
A Hannibal TV Show Fan Convention and Art Collective
On their website, already, they have an artist gallery (and even a featured artist) which consists of a sad six people, but the point is that they clearly already know artists. Even now, they are begging for artists to donate art to help promote the convention.
Yet, some how, somewhere, in all of this, they needed $150 dollars for that logo? Who did they give it to, why, and why won’t they say?
Ticket Prices And Other Issues
Ticket prices to attend this convention are positively insane. To start with, you cannot purchase a ticket for only one day. You are forced to purchase a ticket to attend all four days. The cheapest ticket you can purchase is $160 dollars. The most expensive ticket you can purchase is $325 dollars and the “perks” you get between the two aren’t very different save for a few small items.
One of the key things to note is that despite the price you might pay, at the end of each one of them it says “with the exception of additional ticketed events”. However, if you are to ask them what these things might be or what they might cost, they don’t have an answer for that but will be deciding on it soon. Here is some of what they say it may or may not include (but give no idea on the price range it might cost).
An ON-LOCATION Bus tour of Hannibal filming sites (Scheduled 7am on Thursday Nov 2 – Pricing to come)
An incredible opportunity to have a Hannibal-themed dinner hosted by Hannibal’s food stylist Janice Poon based on recipes from the cookbook FEEDlNG HANNIBAL.
(Seating will be limited – Pricing to come)
This is concerning as considering the price just to get in, well, one can’t imagine that the additional events are going to be any cheaper. As for what the differences in the tiers are and what you get, it seems to be the following.
This is the cheapest ticket you can buy. As you can see, there are three items which will cost you an additional fee. Photo Ops, Autographs, and the book signing with Janice Poon. The rest is relatively mundane and cheap stuff that isn’t really worth paying $160 dollars for, possibly other than being allowed to attend the cast question and answer session. They also haven’t decided if they will or won’t have Fan-led discussion panels but you’re gonna pay for that too. Oh, you also get lunch on the last day.
This is the $220 dollar ticket. You get everything you get for the first level, you still have to pay for autographs, photos, and the book signing. However they add in screenings and discussions, food tasting (which is weird since they also include that as an additional ticketed event and don’t know the price yet) and some sort of “Technical Panel”. Is that really worth paying nearly $100 more dollars for?
The only difference between the $220 level and the $325 dollar level is that you get VIP stuff (first to do everything which is free by the way, and shouldn’t even be a big issue seeing as how very few people are going to attend) and one free autograph with one cast member. I guess considering this you will still be paying to attend the book signing with Janice, paying for any other photos and autographs, still paying for the alleged bus tour, and well…you get the point. You are spending $325 dollars for four days knowing that you will still have to shell out a couple hundred more dollars to do everything, many things they still have yet to list prices for. Is it really worth all of that money?
If you think I’m being ridiculous many people who paid or wanted to pay did not like these prices either, prompting them to send out this message to people who wanted to purchase tickets:
Free Upgrades To Gold Membership:
Before tickets first went on sale on April 4th of 2017, people who backed at least $180 dollars had 48 hours to upgrade their backing tickets for free from basic entry into Gold entry, which would give them the $325 dollar ticket for the $180 dollar backing they gave the original campaign. By the way, $180 dollars was the minimum one needed to pay in order to get an actual ticket. There were other donation amounts, and for some reason people gave them money, but none of them would get you into the actual convention until that point and that ticket only covered you for 3 days, not four. Then tickets go on sale and four days to attend costs 20 dollars less. They also give any of these backers who backed at that level (14 people) a chance to upgrade to the best and most expensive ticket for no extra cost.
So, how will they afford the guests?
At this point they claim to have 4 guests booked. Janice Poon, Demore Barnes, Scott Thompson, and Aaron Abrams. Scott being the most famous of the four. Not to downplay all the talent the rest have but he’s going to be the biggest name there, no question. This makes me wonder how they are affording any of them considering their claims they are booking through agents. This means, they are definitely making a downpayment for these guests and guest appearances, no matter how small the celebrity, start in the thousands. As you will recall, the startup fees mention absolutely nothing about booking guests. Here’s what it says on their Kickstarter about such a thing:
Should we exceed our goal of $10,275, we can begin to meet other below-listed expenses:
• Banking /Credit Card
• Event Food & Beverage & Staffing
• Event tee-shirts/swag/ badges
• Guest Appearance Fees /Transportation/ Accommodations
• Meeting Planning Consultation
• Office supplies
• Printing Event Guides, Banners and other Signage
• Public Performance Rights /Legal Contract Review
• Ticket Selling Platform
• Tour Bus Rental
They did slightly exceed their goal, on the last day, after begging literally everyone who would listen to give them money. They ended up with $14,653 dollars.
Now, lets pretend that they actually used all of the $10,275 dollars only for startup fees, because honestly it’s questionable what they did with some of that money. If that’s the case then what they have left over is a total of $4,378 dollars left over. This might, and I mean MIGHT book one guest. The first guest that was officially confirmed was Janice Poon. The problem with this is that they are going to have her working (preparing food for people to taste) as well as answering questions and sitting there for screenings. If that’s the case, they most definitely were asked to shell out over that amount. But, Janice seems like a nice woman, maybe she agreed to do it for 4 thousands. Fair enough. They still have to pay for her travel expenses, room, her food, and anything else she’s going to want for the four days that she’s there. Lets also pretend Janice is super nice and said she’ll cover everything and not to worry. That still leaves them with a little under $400 to do anything with.
What have they done with that $400? Well they certainly didn’t some how manage to book three more guests on only $400 dollars. Where is the rest of the money coming from? Not to mention the near three week gap between announcing they were going to have a new guest to announcing who it actually was. Which was also weird.
The theory is possibly that they are doing this based on projected ticket sales. The problem? They have already stated they only have room capacity for 500 people and they’d need to sell all those tickets at the highest price to afford everything they are promising. Considering people are already complaining about price, or openly making comments that they don’t have enough “star power” to justify spending that much money, they aren’t selling out of tickets any time soon. This means that based on ticket sales alone, they can’t afford the celebrities.
The other option here is that since they registered as a 501c3 they have some how convinced the agents of these people that this is a charity and convinced the celebrities to donate their time thinking that it’s a charity. Which falls under the whole fraud thing since they absolutely are not a charity, nor are they connected to a charity. Even if these people are donating their time, for whatever reason, they will still be expected to pay for their rooms, food, and other expenses while these guests appear and that’s still thousands of dollars even if it’s significantly less thousands of dollars.
All public data, as of now, certainly states they do not have enough money to host these guests, are most likely doing something shady to get the guests there, and are misrepresenting projected attendance, ticket sales, and interest in the actual convention. I wonder if there’s a way to inform the guests what is going on? Even worse, they keep teasing more guests to be announced soon and if they manage to announce a guest bigger than Scott Thompson, there is definitely going to end up being a problem.
Little To No Attention
There is almost no attention or publicity surrounding this event except for one article on The Geekiary where the comment section was shut down after people came in to say how this convention sounded like a bad idea and the moderators there decided to listen to Betsy and remove the comments all together. The only other promotion for this is on some guy who writes on some maybe popular geek site about it? He’s also clearly friends with Betsy because you can see him all over the official FannibalFest facebook page trying to be chummy with anyone who has a question. He acts as if he is a director of this himself despite not being listed as one.
On Twitter they only have a few thousand followers but the actors aren’t really singing their praises or promoting them too hard. Bryan Fuller only mentioned them once or twice and hasn’t exactly endorsed them. The most retweets they get on any given item is around 40 notes, if that, and usually it’s more like 20. It depends what they tweet. Their official facebook page has less likes than their twitter page and on there you can only see one or two people chatting about actual plans to attend the convention. On Tumblr there are a few more people who seem to be going but their posts don’t get much over 60 notes, if that.
A lot of people retweet or reblog things in order to “signal boost” and have no intent on going or even giving them money but they want to make other fans “aware” of the convention if they want to go. FannibalFest also has a nasty habit of instantly blocking anyone who says anything bad about them and currently has the anonymous messaging disabled because they got sick of trying to answer legitimate questions such as “What are you doing with my money”. Even people who speak out against it, call it elitist, or are open about it being a scam aren’t even getting hate because of the fact that there is so little interest in actually going from almost anyone on social media, no one cares if other people hate it. Now, if you started to openly trash something like Red Dragon Con, you’d be in for a world of butthurt fans because that convention actually is popular and in it’s 4th year.
There is almost no telling what Norma E. Craig’s intent is or was when she started this. It seems just as likely that it’s a scam as much as it seems likely that these are four people who have no idea what the hell they are doing. It could also be possible that Betsy is aware it’s a scam and is running it to benefit herself, and the other four have no clue that she’s doing it this way.
At the end of the day it seems to me that Betsy and her friends set this up because what they wanted was to meet celebrities. They are so obsessed with Hannibal that they dreamed up a way they could hang out with all their favorite stars and have a good weekend that would be funded by other people. The problem in this lies in the fact that if all four of these women are directors, all four of these women will be working on that day. They will not have time for fun, they will not have time to chill with celebrities and eat awesome food. Their entire purpose of being there will be to help the guests, help the convention goers, and organize everything so that nothing goes wrong.
Part of me thinks that Betsy believes the other three will take care of everything while she sits back and does nothing. I also believe that the other three don’t think they’ll have to do any work and the hotel will take care of all the problems but the hotel won’t ultimately give a shit about them after they’ve taken their money for the convention room. At least not beyond basic customer service and what is polite. Other more minor things I have not mentioned yet:
- They claim they will write up an anti-harassment policy and 100% guarantee that no one at the convention will be harassed for any reason (good luck)
- They claim they are hiring private security because hotel security is not enough (No idea how this will be afforded)
- They claim that this policy will be posted on their website (They actually claimed this a month or so ago and have still not added it)
- They switched from demanding members to their convention be artists (and prove it without defining terms of what that meant) to membership only being that you buy a ticket.
- They still have not determined what membership is or awards you other than entrance into the convention.
- They are begging for people to sponsor their event by misrepresenting how large the event will be and how popular they actually are.
- They promised a group code/discount on hotel rooms for people who are going but failed to even have that arranged before they started selling tickets. Something that should have been taken care of before they started ticket sales.
- They can’t answer even the most basic questions such as, “If the Kickstarter was just startup fees, how are you affording guests” without losing their shit and becoming verbally abusive.
- They still don’t know what all the additional ticketed events will be, nor do they have any clue what they might cost.
- They have four directors and still none of them are officially in charge seeing as how depending on what admin or moderator you happen to talk to, you will get a different answer and no one seems to know what the other admin or moderator is doing or saying.
This convention, scam, whatever, is going to be a massive failure of massive proportions. I’ve already been threatened with physical violence to attempt to deter me from attending it, but it’s not too far from my house, it’s a public hotel where it’s being held. Maybe I won’t be allowed in the actual convention room but they can’t keep me out of the hotel and they definitely can’t stop me from getting a room there for a night. If they actually have this sadfest of a convention I will most definitely be there to film the train wreck they have to deal with when they can’t provide everything they’ve promised these backers and more.