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Rolfe Kanefsky On His Latest Film Poolboy Nightmare, What It’s Like to Get a Lifetime Film Made

September 21, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Poolboy Nightmare

The 411 Interview: Rolfe Kanefsky


Rolfe Kanefsky is a writer, director, and producer that has been making movies since the early 1990’s. Kanefsky has directed horror movies (Dead Scared/The Hazing, Nightmare Man, Art of the Dead), comedies (Pretty Cool and Pretty Cool Too), and even softcore erotic comedies (Emmanuelle 2000: Emmanuelle’s Intimate Encounters), among others (check out his full filmography here). Kanefsky’s latest effort as a director is the Lifetime thriller Poolboy Nightmare. In this interview, Kanefsky talks with this writer about making Poolboy Nightmare, the current world of TV movie production, and more.



Bryan Kristopowitz: How did Poolboy Nightmare come to be your next movie as a director?

Rolfe Kanefsky: Well, I’ve been writing a lot of Lifetime movies the past few years and am always pitching projects to a handful of producers I know who make them. I took a meeting with David Rimawi from The Asylum during the AFM about two years ago. He told me the surefire plot of every Lifetime movie. “A woman and her teenage daughter live in a nice home. Someone evil enters their lives and at the end the woman must save herself and her daughter in their nice home.” With that I took five minutes and came up with a story idea called Dangerous When Wet which a year later was finally produced as Poolboy Nightmare.

BK: Was Poolboy Nightmare always set up to be a movie for Lifetime or did that arrangement happen later on?

RK: I always had it in mind for Lifetime but couldn’t get any producer to pull the trigger on it for almost a year. I tried to do it myself because I always thought it would be a perfect Lifetime movie and they would pick it up. But I couldn’t find the financing. Finally, The Asylum came through and let me direct as well. That was my goal because there’s a Catch 22 with Lifetime movies. You can’t direct one unless you’ve directed one and nobody had given me the opportunity to direct one until now.

BK: You also wrote the script for Poolboy Nightmare. Did you write it with it being a “basic cable TV movie” in mind in terms of content/what you would likely get to do in terms of sex or violence or did you have to make concessions later on in terms of what you could do/show? Is there an “unrated/unedited” version of the movie?

RK: Interesting question. I always thought there would be a “television friendly” version but part of me wanted to shoot an “R” rated version as well with a few scenes shot two ways. I thought the opening scene with Sarah French could have had some nudity and been more violent. Same with one of the kills later in the movie, the “torrid love scene” between Gale and Adam, and a more powerful ending. But with the time crunch and budget, the only thing I did shoot was an alternate ending, which personally I prefer. We have a handful of deleted scenes and a different finale but that’s it. Rimawi was intrigued about shooting some more explicit scenes for a possible Redbox or Netflix sale down the line but they weren’t going to add more days or budget to the production so I just let it go. As is, we did have to tone down some of the violence in the movie. There are a few bloodier moments that had to go for television. If the film was a success, it would be fun to go back and cut a slightly more explicit version but I highly doubt that will ever happen.

BK: Just how “true” is the “based on a true story” announcement at the beginning of the movie?

RK: Actually, in the final broadcast version that “based on a true story” was removed which is good because the movie isn’t based on a true story. Although the timing of the release and the scandal all over the papers was an interesting surprise.

BK: Where was Poolboy Nightmare filmed? Was the house with the pool actually one location?

RK: Yes, Nick Lyon, the line producer, found the house. It’s in North Hollywood and only five minutes from where I live. It was perfect and that is one location. We got very lucky. All our locations really increase the look of the film, making it seem more expensive than it was.


BK: How did you cast Poolboy Nightmare?

RK: The Asylum hired a casting director and we received a lot of submissions via video auditions. I had worked with a few cast members before and brought them into the callbacks without having to submit a tape. I always had Jessica Morris in mind to play “Gale.” I had recently worked with her in Art of the Dead and she has a great track record in the Lifetime arena. She loved the script and came on board. I also got Cynthia Aileen Strahan for the role of “Jackie” and Sarah French to play “Rhonda”. They, too, were in my Art of the Dead. Ellie Darcy-Alden submitted a tape for “Becca” and it was great. When we called her in for the callback, I discovered she was British and had done a flawless American accent. I was sold on her at that point. Plus she had played Harry Potter’s mom in a flashback in the last movie of the franchise when she was nine. How cool is that? Tanner Zagarino sent a tape as well. It was okay but he had a great look and an unusual last name. Turned out, his father is Frank Zagarino, a B-movie action star from the 90’s who I worked with 18 years earlier. He had starred and produced a movie I wrote called Shattered Lies with his wife, Tanner’s mom! Small world, huh?

BK: How long did it take to make Poolboy Nightmare, from completing the script to finishing post-production?

RK: I had about two weeks for the script, including revisions. Casting was three days. Shooting was 11 days. So, from script to the wrap of shooting, it all happened in about six weeks. We ended just days before Christmas. Everyone left town and the editor had a first assembly cut done by New Year’s Eve. We had a pretty good, almost locked cut by the end of January and then everything came to a halt due to Covid. The film just sat there until end of May when The Asylum ramped up post again. About another month later, it was done.

BK: What was the hardest part of making Poolboy Nightmare? What was the easiest?

RK: The weather turned out to be very different. This is a “summer movie” with people swimming in pools and in bikinis. We were shooting in mid to late December. It was cold. It was raining. It was overcast. Michael Su, my brilliant DP, did an amazing job hiding the fact it was the dead of winter and the cast were great sports too. I wouldn’t say anything is “easy” when making low-budget movies but I loved the cast and they really came through in spades. There’s a lot of movement in Pool Boy because I wanted to really give the film a flow. The camera is constantly moving. We had Steadicam and drone shots galore. Everything is “on its feet” and that makes lighting difficult as well as blocking these long “oners” where the camera doesn’t cut. I am happy how many of these shots stayed in the film. You rarely see this kind of visual flair and amount of action in a Lifetime flick.


BK: How is making something like Poolboy Nightmare different from making something like Art of the Dead? How is it the same?

RK: Television has a pretty strict guideline. It can’t be too sexy or too violent or have unacceptable language. It’s a crazy list so the trick is finding a story that works and that “hints” at all this without showing much. When making a horror film like Art Of The Dead, there are no limits. Anything goes. I love that freedom. But if one is making a suspense thriller for television or theaters, the basic rules of creating tension and danger are still the same. You can do Hitchcock on television.

BK: How competitive is it to get something like Poolboy Nightmare made and shown by Lifetime?

RK: There’s a big market now for these types of films and about a half dozen companies that I know of that are making them. Everybody wants in because it’s a way to make a living. Lifetime doesn’t pre-buy. They approve of a concept or treatment but will not agree to a sale until they see the final version so there is a risk involved in making these films. This is why most companies have joint deals with foreign companies in France or Spain. That way they can still make their money back if Lifetime passes. The problem is that these foreign companies have even stricter rules when it comes to content since they show these movies in the mid-afternoon and are concerned about children and making sure nothing is too scary. So, when you get a Lifetime deal, everyone is really happy. I was hoping that I could elevate the genre a little with my camera direction and cast performances. I guess I pulled it off since the Lifetime Channel picked it up and gave us their prime time holiday time slot on Labor Day. Everyone was thrilled.

BK: In today’s TV movie market, is it easier to get a thriller like Poolboy Nightmare made or is it easier to get a Christmas movie made? It sure seems like Christmas movies get all of the attention.

RK: There are a lot of both. Hallmark seems to be a little harder to get into and their budgets are higher on a lot of these Christmas movies. I’ve written some and had one produced in Bulgaria last year called, “Picture Perfect Royal Christmas which may air in the states later this year. I have a few other Christmas treatments as well. I’ve recently written a lot of straight romantic comedies that have turned out really well. I had two produced earlier this year and three more are in production now. I’m really enjoying these because I’m able to write a 1930’s-style screwball comedies with heart. I channel my inner “Neil Simon” and have a great time.

BK: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

RK: Plenty. Too many some would say. In the horror genre, look out for Death Count that just wrapped production in Vegas. I helped write that one starring Sarah French, Costas Mandylor and Michael Madsen. I’m also involved (writer and will direct an episode) of a cool new anthology horror film called The Macabre that, if all goes well, will start filming next January. There also should be a “big” action horror movie coming up for me but that’s all I can say about that at this time. In the family arena, look out for Dolphin Island that was shot in the Bahamas in January. I’ve got five romantic comedies shooting or were shot in Bulgaria. All fun scripts and they have great casts of up-and-comers. There’s also a sexy thriller called Ring of Desire that’s wrapping up post now. And another Lifetime thriller I wrote that should be airing before the end of the year. So, keeping busy.

BK: What do you hope audiences get out of Poolboy Nightmare?

RK: I think it’s a fun, formulaic ride that has some humor, some thrills, and some suspense. I think if you’re a fan of these movies, you’ll have a good time with it and hope it feels more like a small theatrical movie. That was my goal with nods to many of the films and directors that have inspired me over the years.

BK: Any chance of a Poolboy Nightmare 2?

RK: Probably not. They rarely do sequels but the door is open and I’m sure the surviving cast would be willing to come back. Although a prequel would be more interesting to find out how Adam Lance became Adam Lance. He’s got quite the back story.

BK: Would you rather have a hot tub or a pool?

RK: Pool.



A very special thanks to Rolfe Kanefsky for agreeing to participate in this interview and to david j. moore for setting it up.

Poolboy Nightmare is available on Amazon Prime. Also keep an eye out for it on Lifetime, either live or on demand.

Check out my review of Poolboy Nightmare here.

Check out Rolfe Kanefsky’s official website here and Facebook page here.

Rolfe Kanefsky image courtesy of Rolfe Kanefsky. All Poolboy Nightmare images courtesy of Lifetime Television.