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Charlie Kessler in April sued Matt and Ross Duffer for breach of implied contract, claiming he pitched them his concept for a sci-fi story set near an abandoned military base during an event at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.
The Duffers’ attorney Alonzo Wickers argues the court should apply New York law when considering the matter, since that’s where the pitch allegedly happened. Regardless, Wickers says the court should grant summary judgment because the Duffers didn’t “manifest any intent to enter into a binding agreement” with Kessler, they independently created Stranger Things and the ideas Kessler says he disclosed were not novel.
In a motion for summary judgment filed Jan 30, the Duffers say they’ve been fascinated by the urban legends and conspiracy theories concerning an abandoned Montauk, New York, military base for a long time — and began working on a film on the topic in 2010.
By 2013, they had a detailed outline for a television series that includes many of the Stranger Things characters, settings and storylines. They were in New York, at the film festival party in question, to scout locations for the project, according to the filing.
“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,” writes Wickers. “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.”
Wickers argues there’s no evidence to support the idea that the Duffers making small talk at a cocktail party was tantamount to a business agreement. But, even if the parties had entered into an implied contract, Wickers argues the lawsuit still fails because the Duffers have proof they independently created the series.
A Nov. 19, 2010, email, for example, outlines a project set in the 1980s featuring a secret underground research facility, unethical experiments, a monster coming through a portal and other elements of what would become Stranger Things. Days later, another email mentions a protagonist who was abducted with other psychically gifted children and experimented on to develop those abilities and ends up able to control minds and move objects telepathically. The brothers continued to refine the project through 2013, when they outlined a pilot episode.
“By filing this baseless lawsuit, Kessler unfairly maligned the Duffers’ reputation,” writes Wickers. “The Duffers worked for years to develop a series that tapped into their fascination with the mythology of Montauk and their fondness for the 1980s. … Kessler had nothing to do with the creation of Stranger Things, and the Duffers respectfully request that the court grant summary judgment in their favor.”
Read the full motion below.
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