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The Stranger Things Writers Are Being Sued For Allegedly Stealing The Idea

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Indiewire“Stranger Things” creators Matt and Ross Duffer are being sued by producer Charlie Kessler, who claims they ripped off his 2012 short film “Montauk” to make their blockbuster Netflix original series. The lawsuit was first reported by TMZ. Kessler produced the short film, which deals with secretive government experiments. The short premiered in 2012 and won a prize at the Hamptons International Film Festival.

According to the lawsuit, Kessler approached the Duffer brothers in 2014 with an idea to turn “Montauk” into a full-fledged television series. The talks never advanced beyond an idea pitch, in which the project was reportedly called “The Montauk Project.” Kessler says the brothers used his script, idea, and story to make “Stranger Things.”

I always wonder how these things work.  How nerve-wracking must it be to be some nobody writer or producer stepping into the office of a Hollywood big shot to pitch some idea you have?  What’s to prevent them from doing exactly what is claimed here – saying eh no thanks, then just using the idea themselves?  I’m sure there’s a code of honor and professionalism at play, maybe you even have to sign stuff.  But as someone trying to get their huge break in the industry and FINALLY nailing down a meeting with a big player, you also have to shoot your shot and leave it all out there with your best ideas. What a quandary.  I guess I could ask somebody.  Our majority owner is like the biggest guy in Hollywood.  Unfortunately it’s proven pretty difficult to get him on the phone.  Or respond to my texts.  Or my DMs.  Or acknowledge me in person.  Or know my name.

Anyway I just did it myself on Google – looks like the lawsuit is based around an “implied in-fact contract pursuant to well-established industry norms.”

Kessler says Stranger Things is based on his short film Montauk and a feature film script titled The Montauk Project — both of which are set in the New York city of the same name, which he says is home to “various urban legends, and paranormal and conspiracy theories.”

Kessler’s attorney Michael Kernan argues that the 2014 party pitch created an implied-in-fact contract pursuant to well-established industry norms.

“After the massive success of Stranger Things … Defendants have made huge sums of money by producing the series based on Plaintiff’s Concepts,” writes Kernan. [The Hollywood Reporter]

Seems tough to prove.  That’s why I’ve always felt safer writing everything publicly in blog form with my name attached to it so that there’s a paper trail that DevNest will completely erase after 8 years of work leaving me with zero provable original ideas or commentary.