Netflix has been accused of ripping off a Melbourne filmmaker’s idea for a travel documentary starring Hollywood actor Zac Efron.
Netflix has been accused of ripping off a Melbourne filmmaker’s idea for a travel documentary starring Hollywood actor Zac Efron.

Aussie filmmaker claims Zac Efron travel series was his idea

A Melbourne filmmaker has accused streaming giant Netflix of ripping off his documentary TV series to make its own show fronted by Hollywood star Zac Efron.

Ben Waddell, a former model now based in New York, says the Netflix series was almost a copy of his eco-travel program.

He filmed a pilot of Down To Earth With Ben Waddell in 2017, only for Netflix to broadcast its own eight-part series Down to Earth With Zac Efron in 2020.

Now a second season of the Efron series is being filmed in Australia.

Mr Waddell said the titles and concepts of the Netflix show are strikingly similar to his and even the trailers are similar, both starting with the hosts trying to pronounce a foreign phrase.

Ben Waddell savours local produce in his documentary pilot.
Ben Waddell savours local produce in his documentary pilot.

 

Zac Efron tastes local cuisine in a still from his program
Zac Efron tastes local cuisine in a still from his program

 

 

The opening titles from Down to Earth With Ben Waddell documentary pilot.
The opening titles from Down to Earth With Ben Waddell documentary pilot.

 

 

The opening frames from Down to Earth With Zac Efron series on Netflix.
The opening frames from Down to Earth With Zac Efron series on Netflix.

Mr Waddell said his show, made with production partner Whitney Smith, was about sustainability, environment and traditional cultures around the world.

The Netflix version has Efron travelling the world "in search of the secrets to good health, long life, and a higher level of eco-consciousness.to find healthy, sustainable ways to live''.

Mr Waddell pitched his pilot and concept from late 2017 into 2018 hoping for backing to finance a full series.

"We're not trying to throw Netflix under the bus here. We just want creative credit and royalties that might be due, and to cover my legal fees,'' Mr Waddell told the Herald Sun from New York.

The Efron series is made by US production company Nacelle and is co-hosted by wellness expert Darin Olien. The pair visit Iceland, Sardinia, England, Peru, France, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica.

Ben Waddell during a modelling shoot in Melbourne in 2012.
Ben Waddell during a modelling shoot in Melbourne in 2012.

Nacelle and Netflix, both based in California, were contacted for comment.

 

Mr Waddell is now crowd-funding through GoFundMe to take on Netflix, hoping to raise $50,000 for the legal battle.

He has written letters to both Netflix and Nacelle without any response.

 

Efron has been in Australia since last June and most recently was filming the movie Gold in South Australia for Stan.

 

 

ian.royall@news.com.au

Originally published as Melb filmmaker claims Zac Efron travel series was his idea



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