House of strange children

Based on the “House of Strange Children”

In autumn, most photographers of St. Petersburg think about what beautiful and interesting things to shoot for Halloween. I’ve always liked the work of Tim Burton – his “Alice in Wonderland”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “Big Fish”, “Edward Scissorhands”, “The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”. But it was all wrong: either too banal, or too well-known, or the wrong subject, or too gloomy.

And then I remembered a movie which was made five years ago, reminiscent of the mood of the TV series “Very strange things”. I liked his ideas: the belief that there are still white spots on the map in the world, and that it is important to be yourself and not be afraid to be different from the rest.

House of strange children

On the one hand, the idea is good, and on the other – how to implement it? The action of the film is half in our time, half in the 1940s. And how to show the oddities of children?

How can someone who looks at the photos understand that one heroine can fly, the other can control fire, a guy can make the dead alive, and a girl has great physical strength? Where can I take pictures without leaving far from St. Petersburg? There is a huge probability that it will be difficult to take the whole team out of the city. Where to look for models that match the type?

And the most important thing is how to solve all these problems in a week, given that commercial filming takes up most of the time. In a word, it all looked ambitious, and it became a matter of principle to reach the end.

The plan was:

  • Idea: searching for suitable references (examples), their detailed description;
  • Searching for a filming location;
  • Team search: Makeup Artists, Hair Stylists, Stylists, Models (Enoch, Emma, Miss Peregrine, Gemini, Olivia, Bronwyn);
  • Search for clothes;
  • Creating a storyboard;
  • Creating a list of props and buying it;
  • Shooting and processing frames;
  • Promotion of works in magazines.
House of strange children

While preparing for the shoot, I break it down into several elements: location, light, color palette, main characters, camera angles, and so on, and I also select examples of clothes / hairstyles / makeup for each participant. So make-up artists and stylists will be able to orient themselves faster and pick up exactly what you need. I’m looking for all the examples on Pinterest, and also in films, on the works of other photographers.

Then the most difficult thing is to find models. During the week, half of the team changed: who got sick, who forgot, who had something else that prevented them from appearing on the set. There was a similar story with the makeup artist, and the stylist searched for things for three days, found nothing and decided not to participate. As a result, I called for the help of another specialist, who helped to gather everyone in a day. They were looking for clothes at home, from friends and on Avito.

The choice of locations was limited: I wanted, of course, to the castles outside the city – to Pushkin or Gatchina. Most of all I wanted to go to the Demidov mansion, which was closed for reconstruction. I was the only one who managed to get there and didn’t find any reconstruction, but the fact remained that it would not have been possible to shoot a large company there unnoticed, and the administration did not respond to official requests. An alternative option was the Lopukhinsky Garden on Petrogradskaya with golden trees, a beautiful house and a lovely pond. Part was shot in a studio with a dark interior, vaguely reminiscent of Enoch’s room in the film.

On the last day before shooting, I bought more smoke and flowers, which, according to the idea, would come to life, and in the evening I made something more like a rope from a rope that was tied around Olivia so that she would not fly away.

House of strange children
House of strange children

At night, I sat down at the storyboard. It was important for me not to draw accurate shots, but to figure out what people can do in the pictures. I got the main ideas from Tim Burton. So the twins became sloppies, stealing a shoe from Bronwyn and always sharing something, Enoch turned out to be a gloomy-looking teenager, reviving flowers for Emma. So there was news in the newspapers that could anger the girl so much that the newspaper burned down. But there were also advantages of her ability: the tea in the mug did not cool down until Emma wanted it. Bronwyn could lift a huge pumpkin, or she could lift the annoyed twins. Olivia could fly, but it was desirable for her to have a rope with her.

The shooting lasted six hours, taking into account the frames for each, common pictures and moving between locations. Post-processing became the simplest stage: I wanted to convey the spirit of the old time, so some of the photos were taken as on film, and some were made with a sepia effect, as if they were already many years old. This is the very series where it is important to watch the footage in order – only then will they form into history.

Half of those models and stylists to whom I wrote thought that it would not be possible to shoot what I want. It didn’t work out with them, but it turned out great with others. Such shooting is an amazing exercise for everyone who works in the visual industry: a photographer learns to organize a team, a model learns to imagine herself as a heroine who lived more than half a century ago, a stylist learns to find what they could wear at that time. But the most interesting thing is the creation of your world, which at least for a short time can become real.

Thanks to:

Anna Naumenko as Bronwyn
Anna Panfilova as Emma
Alexandra Grigorieva as Olivia
Dmitry Engulatov as Enoch

Makeup artist – Tatiana Chernokozova
Stylist – Nadezhda Korneva