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‘Stranger Things’ creators deny stealing idea for hit sci-fi Netflix series

Filmmaker Charlie Kessler accuses ‘Stranger Things’ creators Matt and Ross Duffer of stealing the premise of the Netflix series from his 2012 short film, ‘Montauk’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 12:36pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 9:46pm

Stranger Things creators the Duffer brothers have denied accusations that they stole the idea for their hit Netflix series from a short film by director Charlie Kessler, who has filed suit against them.

In a statement from their lawyer Alex Kohner, Matt and Ross Duffer called Kessler’s lawsuit “completely meritless”.

“[Kessler] had no connection to the creation or development of Stranger Things,” said the statement. “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.”

Much of the first season of Stranger Things involved the strange events at a government laboratory and the disappearance of a young boy.

Kessler alleges Stranger Things is based on his short film Montauk, which premiered at a film festival in 2012 and was meant as a teaser for a feature-length film, The Montauk Project.

He said he shared the idea of the two films with the Duffer brothers during a Tribeca Film Festival party in 2014.

His film, set in New York, is about an abandoned military base called Camp Hero and a young boy, Michael, who is drawn to the military base by an unknown force.

An exhibit attached to the lawsuit describes the film: “Michael walks to Camp Hero and stops at lifeless radar tower on the base … The radar tower suddenly lights up, the sky swirls with clouds, blue lights flash, and the boy disappears into thin air.”

Kessler claims in the lawsuit that Stranger Things was originally sold to Netflix as The Montauk Project.

He argued that there was in implied-in-fact contract when he spoke to the Duffer brothers about his film at the 2014 party, and that they used the idea without permission or compensation.

“After the massive success of Stranger Things … Defendants have made huge sums of money by producing the series based on Plaintiff’s Concepts,” the lawsuit stated.

Kessler asked for an injunction ordering the Duffer brothers to stop using and destroy all materials related to his concepts.

He was also seeking restitution in the amount of benefits to the creators, lost profits and punitive damages.

The entertainment industry has had many conflicts like this one in recent years.

Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I. pre-emptively filed a lawsuit to protect their 2013 song Blurred Lines after Marvin Gaye’s family pointed out resemblances to Gaye’s Got to Give It Up.

The Gayes countered the suit with accusations of copyright infringement, and the trial ended in 2015 with the family receiving US$5.3 million and 50 per cent interest in ongoing royalties from “Blurred Lines.”

In February, director Guillermo del Toro was sued by playwright Paul Zindel’s estate, according to Deadline, for “appropriating plot elements from Let Me Hear You Whisper into del Toro’s film The Shape of Water.

The 1969 play is also about a female custodian who tries to free a sea creature – a dolphin, in this case – from a laboratory using animals as weapons.

Tribune News Service, The Washington Post