As the creative minds behind Netflix’s mega-hit Stranger Things, Ross and Matt Duffer know a thing or two about developing an original idea into a television series. Therefore it should come as no surprise that the brothers have chosen to share their process with other would-be TV writers in a new set of videos and instructional materials on MasterClass. Part of the behind-the-scenes journey includes a look at never-before-seen planning documents that reveal how the show evolved into what it is today.
The collaboration between the brothers in creating Stranger Things necessitated having the outline in a shared state online. “As we started to put together [our MasterClass], we realized that we had so many documents because… even back then in 2014 when we were doing our heavy brainstorming for this, and even before then when we initially had the kernel of the idea which was around 2010, all of it was done on Google Docs. So we have all these documents that no one has seen,” Matt reveals.
By looking at the document history, the Duffers are able to delineate the process of brainstorming and revising at an extremely detailed level. “It’s not us saying here was our outline for Stranger Things. It was actually a fascinating experience for us [to go] in the time machine and go to day one of this document,” says Ross. “And not even day one — what did it look like at 10:00? What did it look like at noon? We were able to go back and actually break down how we even got to that outline.”
Previously, this document was only shared between the brothers; not even Netflix saw it. “They’re very personal documents; they’re really sketchy and rough, just for me and Ross,” says Matt. “They were never shared with anybody. But I thought what was cool about it was for people to see how messy that process is and where exactly does it start, because I think for Ross and I, especially when we were in our 20s and we were trying to figure out how to do this for a living, all you end up seeing, more or less, is the finished product, which is years in the making.”
As the Duffers go through the document history, they reveal a sometimes messy process that has magical moments of character creation. “It doesn’t emerge fully formed,” Matt acknowledges. “You’re going to stumble ten times, a hundred times every day before you can get it there. And so what’s cool about the class is people get to see exactly how we created Stranger Things and every stumbling block we hit, how we overcame those stumbling blocks… and you see the moment that’s kind of fun when we found it — the exact moment that we created the character of Eleven.”
Stranger Things began as an idea centered on the Montauk Project of the Cold War era, but it became so much more. Fans of the show and aspiring writers alike will enjoy seeing how it changed from obscure concept to concrete outline. “It starts really fuzzy, and what’s interesting about it is you’ll see how blurry it is,” says Matt. “You see the idea; you see the shapes of what is going to become the show, but gradually it just day by day and over the course of a month or so comes into focus.”
Stranger Things just concluded its fourth season on Netflix with a fifth and final season yet to come. The Duffer brothers’ MasterClass debuted on the online service on June 30, 2022.
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