Duffer Brothers sued over original idea for Stranger Things

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Apr 3, 2018

Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer have been sued amid allegations that the concept for one of Netflix’s biggest success stories was improperly lifted from an uncredited source.

Per The Hollywood Reporter, the lawsuit, filed by producer/director Charlie Kessler, accuses the Duffer Brothers of purloining his original idea for Stranger Things. A copy of the filing can be viewed here.

Kessler claims the Duffer Brothers stole major plot elements — including the story’s setting near a mysterious government installation, as well as its reliance on supernatural forces leading to an alternate reality —  from Kessler’s 2011 short film Montauk.

Netflix did not immediately respond to SYFY WIRE's request for comment.

Montauk, a six-minute, found-footage-style film set near a government research facility on Long Island, scored Kessler an award at the Hamptons International Film Festival in 2012, and was picked up in 2015 by Netflix for an expanded series order under the name The Montauk Project to be scripted and directed by the Duffer Brothers. The Duffer Brothers ended up producing Stranger Things for Netflix, which debuted on the streaming giant in 2016.

Kessler reportedly sought out the Duffer brothers in 2014 to help him spin Montauk into a TV series, although the two parties made no agreement.

Kessler discussed his Montauk short feature in a 2012 interview with /Film, including its basis in real locations and local urban legends in the Long Island community where he was raised. Kessler said he was “fascinated with urban legends in general and specifically local folklore... I especially got fascinated with one called The Montauk Project, which was a supposed set of highly classified government experiments in Camp Hero State Park out in Montauk. “

He also said many of the plot elements for his short film — including “psychic weapons, portals to other dimensions, time travel, etc.” — were inspired by lore associated with the Montauk Project.

Stranger Things is heading into its third season, with no announced release date yet.