Before Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
became a film, it was a novel by Ransom Riggs. There were so many facets that drew me to Ransom’s book. The photographs spoke to me on an emotional level; there was a sense of mystery, power, and creepiness. I liked that they provoked my imagination, and that I didn’t immediately, know everything about the images. The narrative was reminiscent of a fairy tale or a fable. It mixed up the past and present,and centered on kids who have strange abilities, afflictions even, that they manage to live with and incorporate into their lives. They aren’t superhuman, but they are unusual. And like any good fantasy, the story was rooted in reality and drew on real feelings. Every step the novel took was unexpected and didn’t follow a traditional path. I liked that the book is not so easily categorized. It has been classified as young adult, dark fantasy, but as is often the case with categorizations, this seems unnecessarily limiting. I think it’s for all ages, and I never understood the classification of what is considered dark. I often find what is considered normal—such as going to school or having my aunt visit—as some of the most terrifying ordeals I have endured. On the other hand, I find watching a monster movie comforting. I think those kinds of films are an outlet, that they give people a way to cope with psychological sentiments in their lives they are trying to understand. I found Ransom’s novel compelling in a similar way to old horror movies, and I was drawn to the material enough to make a movie about it because I wanted to further explore Miss Peregrine’s world.
I’m always asked why I’m so attracted to the outsider, and I think it’s because many people have felt that way at one point in their lives. Once they have, no matter how popular people become, or successful, those feelings of not fitting in are still there—it’s written into their DNA. I can certainly relate. Jane Goldman, who really understands peculiar people, has done a fantastic job of translating the vibe of the novel into a script. Basing a film on a book is sometimes one of the hardest transitions, because they are such different scenarios. But the most important aspect, which I feel she’s done, is to capture the vibe that attracted us both to the book in the first place. It’s a balance of many different elements—it’s a little scary, a little funny, a little mysterious. Like the book, there’s also a simplicity to it. It’s very human based, which I think is important to retain, so that people can
identify with the emotions of the characters.
This film was shot in several locations, with many challenges. I wanted it to be a more practical approach, trying to do the effects live when possible—though calling it practical is a bit questionable since it wasn’t so practical for the cast, who were put through the ringer on a daily basis. I was lucky that they supported this approach, despite the difficulties of trying to do as much as possible on-camera, in real locations and sets. We navigated uncooperative weather, different climates, three countries, a real boat, a fake boat, and an underwater tank. We created rain showers, snow showers, snowballs, pelted people with candy, set Sam Jackson on fire, reversed time, made people eat eyeballs, flew the cast around on wires, had them sliding off roofs, buffeted them with super-powered fans, covered them in bee stings, turned people to stone, created about fifty versions of the same house, battled ticks and time, and generally had a blast. It was everything I love about filmmaking: the surreal situations and opportunities it offers the cast and crew, the strange places you find yourself in, and the unexpected and creative moments that happen every day. Filming is often a series of unexpected outcomes. That’s the joy and beauty of it—that it is constantly new and unpredictable. Most importantly, filmmaking is about the people you meet and work and bond with. I feel so fortunate that my job allows me to work with such a group of amazing and creative people that can take an idea to the next level.
So much hard work has gone into this movie and this book is a celebration of that. It offers the reader a taste of the filmmaking experience. Any movie requires an intense collaborative effort to achieve what appears on screen, and so much of that extends beyond the period of actual filming. This film has been five years in the making. A lot of imagination and skill went into creating Miss Peregrine’s world. I’d like to thank everyone for their dedication, attention to detail, and for caring so much. I’d also like to thank anyone who sees Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
and enjoys it. Your enthusiasm is one of the reasons I keep making films.Tim Burton
Copyright © 2016 by Leah Gallo. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.