Stranger Things co-creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, said the plagiarism lawsuit by filmmaker Charlie Kessler is “completely meritless.” Alex Kohner, an attorney for the Duffers, described the charges as “just an attempt to profit from other people’s creativity and hard work,” Deadline reports.
Kessler filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday, accusing Matt and Ross Duffer of stealing the premise of their Netflix sci-fi/drama series from his 2012 short film, Montauk. Kessler wrote that he pitched the Montauk concept to the brothers during an April 2014 party at the Tribeca Film Festival and later presented them with the movie’s “script, ideas, story and film.”
Kohner denied that claim in his statement, writing, “[Kessler] 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.”
In his complaint, Kessler stressed the deep connection between the two projects, writing that the Duffers used “The Montauk Project” as a working title during the early development of Stranger Things, which they originally set in the titular New York town before switching to Indiana.
The Duffer Brothers are simultaneously dealing with an internal controversy related to the hit series. Earlier this month, a former Stranger Things crew member named Peyton Brown announced she wouldn’t participate in the show’s upcoming third season after watching “two men in high positions of power on that set seek out and verbally abuse multiple women.” Although she didn’t specify which “two men” in the original caption, she acknowledged she was referencing the Duffer Brothers in a reply comment.
The Duffers responded to the allegations, saying: “We are deeply upset to learn that someone felt uncomfortable on our set. Due to the high-stress nature of production, tempers occasionally get frayed, and for that, we apologize,” they wrote. “However, we think it is important not to mischaracterize our set, where we believe strongly in treating everyone fairly regardless of gender, orientation, race, religion, or anything else. We remain totally committed to providing a safe and collaborative working environment for everyone on our productions.”