BELLEAIR BLUFFS — On an ordinary cul-de-sac Friday in Harbor Bluffs, director Tim Burton was doing the extraordinary.
Inside a modest one-story waterfront house, Burton directed a birthday party scene for his latest movie Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, based on a young adult novel by Ransom Riggs.
Burton's set was closed to the media but tell-tale signs of movie production were obvious. In neighboring driveways, tons of filmmaking equipment awaited use. More than two dozen crew members milled on lawns, or peered inside a garage at video monitors displaying the action inside.
White luxury vans occasionally dropped off staff and supplies from dozens of trucks, tents and trailers parked beneath the nearby Belleair Causeway span. Pinellas County deputies and private security agents discouraged gawkers.
Three doors away, Susan Weinstock retrieved her morning mail and chatted about this temporary intrusion of Hollywood.
"It isn't inconvenient at all," said Weinstock, whose home isn't part of the production. "They're very, very friendly. They helped me take out my trash today."
She pointed out a house across the street being used as classrooms for the on-set teachers required when child actors are working. She said that neighbor is being paid $500 per day for what was intended to be a three-day shoot. The neighbor next door rented his driveway for $1,000, for a canopied snack table for crew members.
While Burton wasn't visible during a Friday visit, actor Asa Butterfield (Martin Scorsese's Hugo) was seen entering the home where filming occurred. The cast includes Eva Green (Casino Royale) as Miss Peregrine and Samuel L. Jackson as Barron, a mysterious character not featured in Riggs' book.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is the story of Jacob (Butterfield), who travels to a Welsh island after the death in Florida of his grandfather, where he encounters the title character, strange kids and stranger creatures.
Scenes filmed around Tampa Bay are reportedly inspired by Riggs' first two chapters, and don't include Green or Jackson's characters.
Burton did greet one lucky fan Thursday. Carlie McCann, 16, a sophomore at Osceola Fundamental High School in Seminole, talked her way into Burton's company and a photograph, with a request for an interview for her school newspaper.
"I'm not involved with the paper," Carlie confessed Friday in a telephone interview. "It's the only way I could really think of, to get in."
Carlie's stepfather David Costanza shared with the Times her photo with Burton, whose movie posters cover her bedroom walls. Her adoration of the director's quirky style stretches back to long-ago Halloweens, when she and her brother dressed as characters from Burton's productions The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride.
"I really like how he focuses on people that aren't really noticed," Carlie said. "He would say they're the 'misunderstood outcast' people. I always admired that he focused on them."
Of course, Carlie wasn't born when Burton last worked around Tampa Bay 26 years ago on Edward Scissorshands, starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder.
Local filming on Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is expected to continue through March 7, when the production moves to the United Kingdom.
The movie is slated to be released in March 2016.
Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.