Chapman alumni Matt and Ross Duffer, the creators of “Stranger Things,” are being sued for allegedly stealing story ideas from another film.
A filmmaker named Charlie Kesslers filed a lawsuit on Monday against the two brothers claiming that they stole script ideas from his 2012 short film “Montauk” and used his ideas to create “Stranger Things,” according to NBC News.
Kessler is suing the Duffer brothers for breach of implied contract and is seeking monetary damages, but has not specified on the compensation, according to NBC News.
Kessler claims he met the Duffer brothers at a party at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014, according to NBC News. During this initial meeting, Kessler said he discussed the script and ideas of his 2012 short film titled “Montauk” and the feature film script titled, “The Montauk Project.”
The lawsuit describes instances in which the plot of “Stranger Things,” is very similar to the concepts in “Montauk.” Both films include a sci-fi narrative, both take place in a
town of the same name and both include “the location of various urban legends, and paranormal and conspiracy theories,” according to NBC News. Both storylines also include the search for a missing boy and the government; “The Montauk Project” focuses on a government run laboratory conducting experiments on kids while the focal point of season one of “Stranger Things” is on government conspiracies. Kessler also claims the Duffer brothers were going to title the show, “The Montauk Project,” but eventually changed the name to “Stranger Things,” according to NBC News.
Alex Kohner, the Duffer Brothers’ attorney, stated that the lawsuit is “completely meritless,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Kohner also stated that The Duffer brothers have never seen “Montauk” and Kessler never discussed any information about the film to the Duffer brothers.
“This is just an attempt to profit from other people’s creativity and hard work,” Kohner told the Los Angeles Times.
According to TMZ, The Duffer Brothers have emails proving they did not steal the ideas for the show. The emails include the Duffer brothers stating they were going to create a series called Montauk that would take place in Montauk. The emails, dating back to 2010, about three years before the supposed meeting with Kessler, also state that the show would be a “real, paranormal, gritty eighties show.”
A Google document from October 4, 2013 describes the plot of the show and defends the “missing boy” aspect of the show. The Google document says, “Benny (renamed Will for the show) leaves his friend Elliot’s house, a bunch of kids are there, eating pizza, dungeons and dragons … Benny leaves on bike, hears voices, goes into strange world, taken by some evil force,” according to TMZ.
Two other emails from February 2014 stated that the show would be set in Long Island and “mentions a location scout in Montauk,” according to TMZ. The Google document and emails are both dated before the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival party.
Netflix declined to comment on the lawsuit, according to NBC News.
The Duffer brothers, who were both Dodge students, graduated from Chapman in 2007 and later created the show “Stranger Things.” The show won five Emmy Awards at the 2017 Creative Arts Emmys ceremony, according to the Chapman website.