An attorney for the Duffer Brothers says a plagiarism lawsuit filed yesterday by filmmaker Charlie Kessler is “completely meritless” and “just an attempt to profit” from the success of Stranger Things.
“Mr. Kessler’s claim is completely meritless,” said Alex Kohner, attorney for the Duffers. “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.”
The statement follows yesterday’s lawsuit filing in Los Angeles Superior Court by Kessler, who directed the short film Montauk that debuted at the 2012 Hamptons International Film Festival. Kessler claims he pitched the Montauk concept to Matt and Ross Duffer in April 2014 at a Tribeca Film Festival party and later presented “the script, ideas, story and film” to the duo that they allegedly used to develop their hit series.
Kessler says the Duffers used the working title The Montauk Project during the early stages of Stranger Things, which was originally set in the Long Island town of the title (a setting later changed to Indiana).
As Deadline reported in 2015 when Netflix (which was not named in the suit) greenlighted Stranger Things to series, the project was called Montauk, with a logline that read: “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.”
Kessler’s Montauk storyline involved a missing boy, a nearby military base conducting experiments on children and a monster from another dimension that looks like a toy.
But both Kessler’s Montauk and Netflix’s Stranger Things were created long after a 1992 book called The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time spread tales – and countless conspiracy theories – about secret government experiments at a place called Camp Hero in Montauk, Long Island.
In a 2013 article about famous conspiracy theories, New York magazine included the Montauk Experiment tales, describing Camp Hero as “the East Coast’s Area 51,” where decommissioned underground laboratories allegedly once investigated teleportation and time travel, among other things.