People may or may not be aware of a little fan run convention known as FannibalFest. They probably are not aware of it due to the fact that it is so small and there is very little interest in anyone going. Even the most devoted of fans are questioning its validity and when they aren't doing that, they are bashing it for being elitist. Here is all the evidence compiled so far, from various sources, on why FannibalFest is either a complete and total scam or run by total morons. It might be a bit of both, to be honest.
On January 31st, 2017, Norma (Betsy) Craig started a Kickstarter campaign for FannibalFest in Toronto Canada. It was (and still is) allegedly the answer to Red Dragon Con (which is a Hannibal only themed convention in the UK and one that has been running for three years now). The Kickstarter asked for 10,275 dollars for various and shady sounding things. View itemized list here.
First and most suspicious on this list is how much they claim the domain and hosting will cost them for an entire year. The domain, which was purchased at a website called Domains.com cost them ten dollars. This means that they now need $1115 dollars for hosting. For an entire year. They host on a website called WIX which I now know because if you go down to the bottom of their official site (FannibalFest.com) and click their youtube social media link it takes you to a WIX promo youtube. This means they never updated (or removed) that specific social media link and it takes you to who hosts them.
As you can see here from WIX's own website, the most expensive hosting plan is $25 dollars a month. This equals a total of $300 dollars for an entire year. Even if they went with that plan, this leaves a total of $810 dollars unaccounted for when it comes to hosting their website. It can be told by their basic and confusing as hell template (which is clearly something default and signifies they probably went with the $14 dollar plan which would leave $947 dollars unaccounted for) that they don't know much about web design and they also didn't hire someone to code or write information for them. The question remains: What are they doing with this additional money that they obviously are not using to host their website or even update it as it has not been updated (except to announce guests) since they got it in January of this year.
Next, we move to the "Legal" Fees which are set at $4500 dollars. The paperwork to file for their Non-Profit status only cost $70 dollars. I know this because I was able to find their paperwork and where it was filed, seeing as how it's public record since they filed under 501c3 status (which declares them a charity, more on that in a moment). In any case, this leaves $4430 dollars completely unaccounted for. Since the paperwork was filed through a legal corporation called LEGALINC then I'm sure they charged some sort of fee, but it couldn't have been thousands of dollars. Let's say they charged 400, just to be generous and it's possible. This still leaves $4030 dollars unaccounted for and floating around for legal fees, allegedly. The term is so vague it really could even be going to pay Betsy's parking tickets for all we know.
Next, we come to the logo for FannibalFest which is listed as $150 dollars. There's a problem with this. Not only is it a very ugly and cheap looking logo, this group is supposed to be a group of artists. An artist's collective. That's what they boast being. They also boast that the 4 directors of the website are artists. If this is the case, why did they need to pay someone for that logo, or, if that's the case, which one of the 4 of them just got $150 dollars for this logo.
There is also debate on if they actually have a convention consultant, seeing as how the man they claim is consulting with them won't answer any questions directly relating to them. In fact, he's never mentioned their convention publicly and when confronted about it on E-Mail or on Social Media he ignores the questions entirely. He only has about 1200 followers on twitter so it's highly doubtful he's not seeing the questions when they are asked, and he's also not blocking my account which I ask them from. His name is Ben Penrod and he's the one they have named at least twice as being a consultant. By this fee chart, they should have paid him $650 dollars for consulting, but if that's the case, why is he not answering any direct inquiries about the convention, promoting it himself, or even attempting to defend its existence.
Next, we move on to the FannibalFest Tumblr Account which can be found here. That one had been handled oddly from the start. First off, they are very rude when answering legitimate questions people have about their convention.
Other than the fact that they are absolutely not filed as a 501c7 and have filed as a 501c3, they tell the person that maybe this isn't the convention for them, they can go to Red Dragon Con. The thing is that right on their own Kickstarter and literally everywhere else they got promoted, they claimed that they were the North American answer to Red Dragon Con and meant for people who couldn't afford to fly to Europe, except now, if they think the rules of the convention and coming to the convention are unfair, they can fuck off and go to Red Dragon Con? This was deleted shortly after, and so there is no archived record of it, but it did happen. They have been known to delete responses after being rude and having other people call them out on being rude. Since it was not expected for them to delete it, other responses and posts have been archived since then.
This also brings us to the entire "membership" debacle that started all of this. When they first opened up for the convention and were raising money for the Kickstarter, they talked about Membership. You had to be a member to attend the convention. However, to become a member, you also had to prove you were an artist and had a "large body of work" behind you to be accepted. This became a problem, mostly because they didn't even know what qualified as a large body of work. Many people reported filling out their "Google Docs" page to be registered in their artist's alley and being rejected (or not responded to at all). Not to mention, their artist's alley or gallery or whatever, has never been updated since it was created (despite promising regular updates) and you can see that here.
After other people complained that this was elitist and stupid, they completely got rid of that idea and started to say that the way to become a member was purchasing a ticket to the convention. Bam, instant membership status. The problem is that they don't have any defined rules of membership and the ticket prices range from $160 dollars at cheapest and $325 dollars at most expensive. It is unclear which one is better (save for a few very minor perks) and what more money gets you as a member. On the Kickstarter, in order to get your foot in the door with at least a 3-day ticket (not 4 days which is the length of the convention), it cost you at least $180 dollars which are more than the price of the cheapest four-day ticket. They also had a 48 hour period where if you backed them $180 dollars on Kickstarter you could upgrade your ticket to Gold status (AKA the $325 dollar ticket) for absolutely free.
Another issue with this is the announcement of four different guests. Janice Poon, Demore Barnes, Scott Thompson, and Aaron Abrams. Janice did the food prep/art on the show, Demore was in two episodes and played a character named Tobias, Scott and Aaron were slightly more main characters, and currently, Scott Thompson is the most famous of the group of four. Their Kickstarter (As you can see) mentioned nothing about their startup fees going to book guests. This leaves massive confusion to if they can even afford the guests, how they are booking them, and if the guests understand how few people are actually interested in the convention. The only possible answer is that they are paying for guests out of their own pocket, but seeing as how this has got to be at very least fifteen thousand to do (since they also mentioned booking through agents) then they have basically already used up every last penny of their startup costs which amounted to a little over fourteen thousand dollars. Right? Except, part of that money said it was going to "book the venue" which is a room at the Airport Toronto Hilton. The point is, there is no clear way to understand how they are booking and retaining guests. Furthermore, their ticket sales can't possibly be that good, and they have stated they only expect 500 guests since the room they booked can only hold 500 people.
This isn't the only expense problem they have. Next to the ticket prices, they list with a little asterisk that there will be additional ticketed events. For every price tier. This means that even if you pay $325 dollars to get into the convention, you still will have to pay for other events. Some of these other events include food tasting by food prepared by Janice and a Hannibal shooting site bus tour. They have yet to even attempt to list the price of either of these things, how much photo ops and autographs will cost, and things like that. There is an offered group rate on the rooms at the hotel, except they are still $109 dollars a night for anyone who wants to attend and stay in the hotel. Seeing as how you cannot purchase a ticket for just one day, you will also need to spend over $400 dollars to stay at that specific hotel for the 4 days that the convention will take place. If you are traveling from overseas this has already cost you thousands of dollars and you aren't even factoring in meals (of which they provide at least one) or other expenses.
Moving on, they seem to be unclear the difference between a private business and private club and a very public non-profit organization that is also considered to be a charity since that's the status that they filed under.
The definition of a 501c3 organization is as follows:
- 501©(3) organizations must spend their income on activities that further their exempt purpose, which is a charitable cause. (source)
There are many problems that arise with this. What charity are they linked to? Who benefits from this other than themselves? If they make a profit (and most likely they won't) where is the profit going to? They also keep saying on their website, tumblr, and twitter, when they answer almost any question that they are 501c7 and it would have made a lot more sense to file the papers under that form since it allows for private clubs and allows to keep somewhere between 15 and 35 percent of any profits made for the group. This is not what they did. When asked about this, they immediately block people, and refuse to answer. To be fair, it could be a legitimate mistake, but since even their Kickstarter states they PLAN to file for 501c7 status (before they actually filed) how could such a massive fuck up ever be made unless fraud was intended? There is a very good chance that someone they knew advised them to do this (even though it was illegal) because they'd be able to benefit from the money and no one would question it otherwise. That is until they do.
This is one of the questions I was talking about (archived link here). Asking about the Kickstarter and how they are going to afford the guests. As you can see they answer that this is a private corporation, but they aren't. At all. In fact, even if they were a 501c7 they would need to be transparent with their funds, just less. Since they are registered as a 501c3 they need to expose every last cent of what they got and what they did with every last cent. Not only that but at the end of the tax year, they absolutely have to make their tax returns 100% public and give them to anyone who requests them. They seem to think that people questioning them do not know how to run a convention when I personally have consulted people who have run conventions and this is why I know they are doing everything ass-backwards and are bleeding money.
As of now they have shut off anonymous messaging of any kind on their tumblr, they also constantly reblog old posts in order to bury questions they have answered, and they seem to be going on with their delusion that the convention is perfectly fine. Not to mention the very long post they made where they blamed literally everyone but themselves for all their failings because "Convention running is hard".
Then you come to the fact that there doesn't seem to be just ONE director. No, all four of them are directors. There used to be six listed on the website but two have vanished with no reason given. This means that there isn't one person in charge, at all, it's all four of them. It also means that if they go down for any sort of tax fraud or appropriation of funds, they will all be liable for it. Another issue is that in an organization like this, the question of how the director or directors have been chosen. This was their answer on their forms:
First of all, what are their bylaws? Their "Legal stuff" Section on their own webpage is an absolute joke and mostly describes the very catch-22 way you can become a member to their "club". It mentions nothing about a president, what membership is, rules of the club, or anything like that.
This is the extent of what they say, most concerning is "Membership may also carry other privileges" but don't you dare ask them what those privileges are because then you are a hater.
There is also the issue of them trying to run their very first convention for 4 days instead of one because they in no way have enough money for four days. It is believed that they thought all they had to do was mention a convention and everyone would throw money at them but this isn't turning out to be the case. Even the few people who will admit to attending (or planning on it) can only justify it because they totally know Betsy and "know" she's a hard worker. This has Dashcon written all over it but to an even higher level of fucked up and stupid. I assume that it will all crash and burn before November 2nd when it's supposed to happen and Betsy, as well as the rest of the committee directors, will be left to answer a lot of angry Fannibals about what happened to their investment money.