Tag Archives: Leah Gallo

Interview: Leah Gallo talks ‘The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’

Quirk BooksWhile fans of Tim Burton are waiting with burning anticipation for the release of his latest, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” one of the celebrated filmmaker’s closest collaborators has another look at the film in a most peculiar way.

In the new book “The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (Quirk Books), photographer/writer Leah Gallo documents the making of Burton’s new adventure fantasy. In addition to a myriad of behind-the-scenes photos and portraits of cast members, the book features an introduction by Burton as well as a foreword by Ransom Riggs, the author of the best-selling novel that the film is based upon.

“Ransom is such a genuine, down-to-earth human being, and he just brings a lot of enthusiasm to everything he does,” Gallo, a Pennsylvania native, recently said in a recent phone conversation from London. “Just being around him, it’s contagious. It’s always fun to hang out with him. We did photo shoots on the film, including Belgium, and he was a lot of fun to take photos of because he was game for whatever.”

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df-08993Leah Gallo. (Photo: Jay Maidment, courtesy 20th Century Fox)

Like she did on her last book on a Burton film, “Big Eyes: The Film, The Art,” Gallo doubled her chores by writing the text as well as taking on many of the photographer duties. While on-set photographs from the making of the film were taken throughout the shoot, the most intensive period of work on the book in terms of the photos and writing took place between November 2015 and May of 2016. Joining Gallo on the book was her longtime collaborator Holly Kempf, who was in charge of design.

Gallo’s “The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” was unique in that the idea of Riggs’ novel was borne out of photographs, assembled from the author/filmmaker’s collection of unidentified vintage portraits that he assembled through trips to flea markets, antique stores and the like. Many were mysterious, if not eerie photographs of children, which led Riggs to conceptualize them in writing as “peculiar” with supernatural abilities.

As a result, Gallo created similar vintage portraits of the characters in the film, which in effect placed her in a parallel universe, effectively, by recreating the original photographs.

“We wanted to keep the vibe of the original photos as much as possible. Whenever we could, we tried to be true to the essence of the photos and the ways the subjects posed in Ransom’s book,” Gallo said.

But unlike Riggs, Gallo said she doesn’t collect old, unidentified photographs of people — nor has she ever had the desire to.

“Whenever I see those old photo bins, I just feel a sense of sadness in a way,” Gallo said. “It’s like they’re pieces of orphaned history that creates a mystery. ‘Who was this person?’ It creates limitless possibilities. That’s why I think Ransom did a great job of curating his collection for his book, and choosing ones that were very striking, intriguing and creepy. I certainly appreciate them and find them compelling, especially in the way he’s constructed the narrative around them.”

“The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” includes dozens of interviews with cast and crew members from the film, including executive producer (and Gallo’s husband) Derek Frey, and of course, the filmmaker behind the peculiar vision that fans will see on the big screen when it opens across the country Friday.

leah-gallo-3Leah Gallo, sketched by Tim Burton, from “The Napkin Art of Tim Burton” (Steeles Publishing).

Gallo recalled the first time she talked with Burton about what inspired him to make the film.

“The photographs from Ransom’s book are what attracted Tim to the project,” Gallo said. “He found them compelling and mysterious. They were a huge part of why he wanted to do the film. I think that’s he was attracted to doing the story of these peculiar children. There’s a similar narrative in a lot of his films, of the misunderstood.”

While she’s collaborated with Burton for 10 years, Gallo said it’s always fascinating to talk with the filmmaker about his newly realized big-screen visions. Essentially, no matter how much she thinks she knows Burton, she always ends up learning so much more about what goes into bringing those visions to life.

“Whenever I interviewed him for the book, he always had answers that surprised me,” Gallo enthused. “The depths in which he thinks about every little detail is amazing.”

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Interview: Ransom Riggs thrilled to enter ‘Peculiar’ world of Tim Burton

20th Century FoxBy Tim Lammers

Ransom Riggs certainly doesn’t mind being called a peculiar person, and not just for the fact that he wrote the novel “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” which spawned into a best-selling book trilogy. He’s peculiar in Hollywood, especially, because he’s a novelist, screenwriter and filmmaker, and not necessarily in that order.

Usually, you’ll find one or another, but hardly ever together.

And through an extraordinary series of events, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” — a little more than five years after it was published — will debut in theaters later this month as the latest film from acclaimed director Tim Burton. The novel has come a long way in a short time, considering that Riggs wrote it while trying to carve out a career as a filmmaker and writer. Usually, it’s the other way around, where a writer writes, and someday, maybe, their novel is adapted for the big screen.

But writing “Miss Peregrine’s” wasn’t a novel idea, so to speak, for Riggs. The genesis of the idea dated back before film school, when he started collecting vintage photos of peculiar people wherever he could find them. Eventually those people — children, in particular — made their way in Riggs’ story to an orphanage on an abandoned Welsh Island, where the titular Miss Peregrine watched over the kids, who were dubbed “Peculiars.”

“I was writing fiction in my spare time since I was a kid, and telling various iterations of a kid trapped in seemingly normal world who finds a door hidden within that world to another one, to an extraordinary place,” Riggs said in a recent phone conversation from New York City. “The photos just became another way for me to tell that story in a style that appealed to me, having just finished film school, because I had been trying to tell stories for three years using words and pictures. So, it was a natural thing to be writing a screenplay on one hand, and at the same time be writing an illustrated novel on the other.”

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The images were not drawings, though, but most of the time were haunting photos that helped Riggs tell his story.

“The photos became a fun resource to draw on when I got to the point of the story and said, ‘OK, I need to create this characters — who are they and what do they look like? — I needed a little grounding,” Riggs recalled. “Also, I liked using the photos because they are a document of a real, incontestably actual thing — a person or a place — in a story that is hugely fantastic and fictional. They just ground in a little bit of history in this story that otherwise might float off into the ether.”

The opening of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” in theaters nationwide Sept. 30, will no doubt assure Riggs that his characters didn’t float off into the ether. Grounding Miss Peregrine is the always ch

arismatic Eva Green, while Asa Butterfield plays Jacob Portman, a Peculiar with the unique ability to see monstrous ex-Peculiars called “Hollowgasts.” The film also stars the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Allison Janney and Judi Dench, while Jane Goldman adapted the screenplay. Burton’s longtime collaborator Derek Frey serves as one of the film’s executive producers.

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Of course, while some authors fret over how their work is going to be adapted, Riggs the filmmaker knows that try as anyone might, they are never going to 100 percent be able to adapt the written words in a novel for the big screen, because they are simply two different mediums. But coming from a similar background as Burton (“We both grew up in very sunny, suburban places dreaming of Gothic castles,” Riggs noted with a laugh), the writer knew his creation was in caring hands.

“I think the best adaptation from novel to film is not always the most faithful adaptation. In order to really make a great film that stands on its own as a piece of cinematic art, the filmmaker has to take the material and internalize it, and make it their own,” Riggs observed. “And yet, while the film diverges from the book in different aspects, Tim captures the spirit and the tone and the messages of the book in ways that I don’t think that any other filmmaker could have. I suppose that’s why Tim gravitated to book. He saw something in it that resonated with him.”

The interesting thing is, while Riggs knew there would be changes in the interpretation of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” from book to film, he was pleasantly surprised with the changes, even to the point where he found himself saying, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

“I constantly was thinking of that. Constantly,” Riggs said, laughing. “So many changes that Tim made — and they’re tweaks, really, there weren’t any enormous changes — were so smart. When something is finished, it’s fun to step back and think, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if the extremely strong girl wasn’t this brawny teenager, but this little, Shirley Temple-like Kewpie Doll girl? Yes! That’s hilarious!’ When you’re making a film and you’re going to be confronted with the visuals of these characters 24 frames a second, making them look right and tweaking the characters to look a certain way is so important.”

September is a big month for Riggs. In addition to Burton’s “Miss Peregrine’s” film, author/photographer Leah Gallo’s “The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” (Quirk Books), which Riggs wrote the foreword for, was released this week. Then, on Saturday, Riggs’ latest novel, “Tales of the Peculiar” (Quirk Books) — which he describes as “an artifact from the Peculiar world” – hits the shelves.

“‘Tales of the Peculiar’ are like the ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ for the Peculiars. They’re the beloved tales that they have grown up reading or hearing read to them by their Ymbrynes (who hide Peculiars from the world’s dangers) and reading to one-another,” Riggs explained. “In the second book in the series (‘Hollow City’), the tales become very important because they contain all sorts of coded messages and secrets about the location of important loops, and the identities of Peculiars and Ymbrynes, who can help them. There are actually a couple tales entirely told within the text of ‘Hollow City,’ and I had so much fun writing them that when I finished the three books, I wanted to write more.”

Interview: Tim Burton photographer, writer talks ‘Big Eyes: The Film, The Art’

Director Tim Burton’s acclaimed new film “Big Eyes,” of course, tells the strange but amazing true story of famed big-eyed children paintings artist Margaret Keane created and her fight to reclaim her identity. And thanks to the sharp lens of Burton’s longtime photographer, Leah Gallo, the film and Keane’s portraits are being examined more in-depth.

New on store shelves and with online retailers Tuesday, “Big Eyes: The Film, The Art” (Titan Books) features behind-the-scenes and photographs by Gallo during the production of the film, which recently earned Golden Globe nominations for stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, and songwriter Lana Del Rey – and a win for Adams in the Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical category. In addition, Gallo includes several of Keane’s original paintings, as well as rare, behind-the-scene photos of the artist at work.

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Left: ‘Big Eyes: The Art, the Film.’ Right: Leah Gallo, Derek Frey.

Gallo, a Pennsylvania native who first worked on “Sweeney Todd” in 2006 and officially started with Tim Burton Productions in London in 2008, said while companion books have been produced for all of Burton’s films since the film about “The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” there was a burning creative desire to make sure “Big Eyes: The Film, The Art” made it to shelves.

“We thought ‘Big Eyes’ was a very special film, and while it’s not as fantastical as ‘Alice in Wonderland’ or ‘Dark Shadows,’ the film reflects the interesting history of Margaret Keane’s life and artwork, so there was a lot to say and show with the book,” Gallo told me in a recent call from London. “About half of the book is about the making of the movie, and the other half is her actual artwork. It’s the first time her artwork has been published since the ’60s.”

Interview: Tim Burton talks “Big Eyes”

Gallo, who previously edited and wrote “The Art of Tim Burton” (Steeles Publishing) in 2009, said “Big Eyes: The Film, The Art” was very much a “hurry up and wait” process, while she and Tim Burton Productions designer Holly Kempf need to line up a publisher and take care of other business matters. Amazingly, Gallo, who also co-edited the book with Kempf, said the production of 192-page tome was completed in very intense two months.

Starring Adams as Margaret Keane and Christoph Waltz as her husband, Walter Keane, “Big Eyes” reveals a complicated time in Margaret’s life in the 1950s and ’60s where Walter scammed the public and art world into believing he was the creative genius behind the art of the big-eyed children, until Margaret found the courage to expose the hoax to the world.

A 10-years-in-the-making passion project for screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (who also co-wrote Burton’s “Ed Wood”), the film also stars Krysten Ritter as Margaret’s best friend DeeAnn, Danny Huston as San Francisco newspaper columnist Dick Nolan, Jason Schwartzman as a snobby art dealer and Terrence Stamp as a pompous art critic. Margaret actually appears in cameo in the film, too, sitting on a park bench in an early scene while Adams and Waltz “paint” nearby.

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“Big Eyes” once again has personal meaning for Gallo in that it’s executive produced by Derek Frey, her husband who has also been a collaborator of Burton since “Mars Attacks!” in 1996. The book captures Burton in a very unique environment that the filmmaker hasn’t visited for 20 years — a small-budgeted movie — and Frey believes the intimate atmosphere brought out something unique in the filmmaker.

“It’s probably the smallest movie Tim has ever made,” Frey told me in a separate interview. “He kept saying, ‘I’ve made a movie for this budget before, but that was “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” in 1985.’ Because of that, ‘Big Eyes’ was a very different approach for Tim as a filmmaker. It was like he cleared out of his life all the big Hollywood franchises and all the movies that came with extra baggage, like a remake or a reinterpretation, and took on something that he could make his own and run with it. I’m really glad he did it.”

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Behind the ‘Eyes’

Gallo said the book features interview excerpts from Adams and Waltz, naturally, as well as Burton, whom she sat down with on a couple different occasions to discuss the film. And while talks with Burton all the time as one of the core members of his office, interviewing him for the “Big Eyes” book was fun and unique because she discovered little tidbits of information from him that she never knew before.

“In ‘Big Eyes,’ I found out there’s a little bit of (famed Italian horror director) Mario Bava in the film. It’s subtle, but you can see it in some of the lighting, it’s really interesting,” Gallo said. “It’s fun being reminded again and again how deeply Tim thinks about things. It may not seem so obvious, but he thinks these things through a lot. There’s a lot going on in his head.”

As Gallo found out, she wasn’t the only one fascinated by the untapped corners of Burton’s mind. Among the cavalcade of creatives she interviewed that have worked with Burton on many occasions — including costume designer Colleen Atwood and composer Danny Elfman included — the common theme she encountered that was that his collaborators keep working with him because they want to access those untapped corners, too.

“Getting perspectives of Tim in the interviews really made me aware of how admired he is. It’s easy to forget that when you work with somebody every day that they’re a creative genius,” Gallo said, laughing. “And then, after interviewing people who have worked around him before who’ve been in the film business for a long time, and hearing about their awe and admiration of him and illustrating all of his creativity, it reminds me that he’s pretty great at what he does.”

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