Charlie Kessler, who directed the short film Montauk that debuted at the 2012 Hamptons International Film Festival, filed a lawsuit Tuesday (read it here) in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming 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 back in 2015 when Netflix greenlighted Stranger Things to series, at the time the project was titled Montauk. Its original logline: “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. Both Montauk and Stranger Things came after a 1992 book called The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time about secret government experiments at a place called Camp Hero in Montauk, Long Island, launching numerous conspiracy theories, according to Variety.
“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,” Kessler’s suit says.
He is suing for breach of implied contract and seeking monetary damages and a jury trial.
Numerous email to Duffers’ reps were not returned. Netflix, which is not named in the suit, also did not respond to requests for comment.