Matt and Ross Duffer, the creators of Stranger Things, are set to go on trial for allegedly stealing the idea for their Netflix show from a man named Charlie Kessler, who claims he pitched a similar project in 2014 at the Tribeca Film Festival.
On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied summary judgment to the Duffers in a lawsuit that was brought forth by Kessler, who alleges that Stranger Things is based off of a feature film script called The Montauk Project. The movie was set in a New York town that he says boasts “various urban legends, and paranormal and conspiracy theories,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) April 18, 2019
In January, the Duffer brothers argued against claims of breaching an implied contract, stating that they did not “manifest any intent to enter into a binding agreement” with Kessler, and that they created the show independently of him. They also asserted that the ideas Kessler claimed to disclosed were nothing new or out of the ordinary.
“Charlie Kessler asserts that he met the Duffers, then two young filmmakers whom Kessler never had heard of, and chatted with them for ten to fifteen minutes,” the defendants’ attorney wrote, according to THR. “That casual conversation – during which the Duffers supposedly said that they all ‘should work together’ and asked ‘what [Kessler] was working on’ – is the sole basis for the alleged implied contract at issue in this lawsuit and for Kessler’s meritless theory that the Duffers used his ideas to create Stranger Things.”
Superior Judge Michael Stern responded, denying summary judgment by stating that there is no requirement of something being “novel” under either New York or California law.
Kessler claims that the series stems from his concept for a sci-fi tale set close to an abandoned military base, whereas the Duffer brothers have submitted statements that this is not true, alleging that they’ve been fascinated by urban legends and conspiracy theories. According to the Duffers, they even started working on a movie on the topic nine years ago.
Stern, on the other hand, says that the Duffers’ statements about independent creation lack concrete evidence that their idea was original. “Without such admissible evidence, we are left with an issue of determining credibility that must be decided by trier of fact,” the judge ruled. “Moreover, whether or not there is a similarity between the concepts to be discerned by comparing them is a subissue of independent creation that must be decided by the trier of fact.”
Because of this, the Duffers will head to a trial that is currently slotted to start on May 6th.