A filmmaker named Charlie Kessler is claiming that Matt and Ross Duffer ripped off his idea when they “created” ‘Stranger Things’ for Netflix, and is currently suing the pair for breach of implied contract and seeking monetary damages.
According to Kessler, after he made a short film called ‘Montauk’ back in 2012, which won the Hamptons International Film Festival, a film which dealt with government experiments similar to the ones in ‘Stranger Things,’ he pitched the idea to the Duffers at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014, calling his series idea ‘The Montauk Project,’ with the whole thing taking place in Montauk, Long Island. Kessler’s story does have a lot of similarities to the Duffer brothers’ story as it revolves around a young boy who disappears all of a sudden, a cop with a haunted past trying to find the child, a nearby military base complete with conspiracy theories that is conducting odd experiments on children, and a monster created by a dimensional portal that resembles a toy that the missing child played with.
According to Kessler’s lawsuit:
“After the massive success of Stranger Things that is based on Plaintiff’s concepts that Plaintiffs discussed with Defendants, Defendants have made huge sums of money by producing the series based on Plaintiff’s concepts without compensating or crediting Plaintiff for his Concepts.”
To help corroborate Kessler’s story, here’s the original logline for ‘Stranger Things,’ when it was indeed still titled ‘Montauk’ and took place in Montauk, Long Island:
“Described as a love letter to the ’80s classics that captivated a generation, the series is set
in 1980 Montauk, Long Island, where a young boy vanishes into thin air. As friends, family
and local police search for answers, they are drawn into an extraordinary mystery involving
top-secret government experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one very strange little girl.”
What the Duffer brothers have in their favor though is that Kessler’s whole idea is based on the real-life conspiracy about secret government paranormal experiments that supposedly occurred in Montauk, Long Island back in the 1970’s, which certainly inspired ‘Stranger Things,’ but in the end the show is actually much more an odd kind of homage to the 80’s and to Steven Spielberg type movies like ‘The Goonies’ or ‘E.T.’
Alex Kohner, the attorney for the Duffer Brothers, has responded to the allegations stating the lawsuit is “completely meritless” and an “attempt to profit” on the siblings’ success:
“Mr. Kessler’s claim is completely meritless. He had no connection to the creation or development of ‘Stranger Things.’ The Duffer Brothers have neither seen Mr. Kessler’s short film nor discussed any project with him. This is just an attempt to profit from other people’s creativity and hard work.”
Only time will tell if Kessler is successful in his lawsuit, but I sincerely hope that none of it is true, as I like the Duffer Brothers and the show, and would hate to think their success was built on stealing an idea from another filmmaker.