Q: Rolfe, tell Buried.com a bit about your influences and background as a filmmaker.
Well, it all started when I was four year old and my father introduced me to Abbott and Costello movies. I caught the end of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE and fell in love with movies and probably comedy/horror. It took me four tries before I could make it through the first five minutes of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (it was too scary) but once I did, there was no going back. I started writing my own Abbott and Costello stories by five (actually I would dictate them to my babysitters and they would write them). But when I learned to write, I never stopped. Abbott and Costello stories led to Winnie The Pooh (it was a phase) and finally to Nick and Neal, two detectives that were a cross between Abbott and Costello and The Hardy Boys. After 12 Nick and Neal adventures, one being a horror slasher parody entitled, "Kill Here, Kill There, Kill Almost Anywhere" and was 110 pages long, hand-written on a yellow legal pad, I decided it was time for the next step. I was basically writing screenplays but didn't know the format yet.
I got a video camera when I was 13 and started making home movies. Most were just chase flicks and comedy routines with friends. But at 14, I made my first official short called, "Breaking and Entering". It was kind of "a killer breaks into the house, chasing someone around, gets thrown out the window, comes back and gets shot by a cop". It was 12 minutes long.
It was at this time that I knew I wanted to be a director, started reading Fangoria and realized that most directors started with horror films. Spielberg, Coppola, Oliver Stone, etc… I was a big Spielberg fan. The perfect age for "E.T." when I first saw it and right then I vowed to do what Spielberg had done. Make my first professional film by the age of 21 or sooner. So, I started rented out every horror film on video, took acting and screenwriting courses at HB Studios in New York City over the summer, made another short (52 minutes long) horror flick called "UNDEAD" and discovered Sam Raimi's "EVIL DEAD".
My HB Studios course led to my first official screenplay, CRIMEWAVE which was written years before Sam Raimi made his own film called CRIMEWAVE. Very different but both were insane and not particularly good comedies.
Anyway, at 16, I tackled my first feature length video production entitled, "STRENGTH IN NUMBERS". It was a comedy action thriller and it took me two years to complete, ran one hour and fifty minutes and taught me more about making films than anything else. I also began working on professional low budget films when I was 16. My father, a film editor in New York, who also ran his own editing business, VALKHN FILMS got me on some movies during the summer. I worked on "RICH BOYS" (never released), "POSED FOR MURDER" (a horror slasher film directed by Brian Thomas Jones), "LASER MAN" (doing prep for a few weeks) and TROMA'S WAR. I did P.A. work on all of these projects.
I made one more feature-length film, a comedy mystery Agatha Christie-style flick and live play called MURDER IN WINTER as my senior project in high school. With two feature-length video movies under my belt, I went to Hampshire College and began making some Super 8 short horror/thrillers. Two of my shorts "PEEK-A-BOO" and "JUST LISTEN" were adapted from a horror thriller script I wrote in the first year at college entitled, "THE HOST".
After my parents saw these shorts, they realized that I was ready to make a real professional film. So, we looked back at some of the scripts I had written and decided THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE would be perfect.
Now, I wrote THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE as an exercise when I was still in high school. I had been working very hard on MURDER IN WINTER and needed to take a break. I wondered how long it would take to write a teen exploitation horror film. Five days later I had the first draft of THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE. The problem was that it was more of a parody of teen horror films and 50's monster movies. You see, after watching so many horror films from 15-18, I couldn't stand all the clichés that these films always did. The cat scare, the kids wandering off my themselves, the heroines dropping the knife by the killer so he can come back one more time. It annoyed me. I liked being scared by good horror films but felt that to many lazy producers jumped on the band wagon after the success of Halloween and made the same (only much, much worse) film over and over again. I thought it would be cool to have a character who had actually seen every horror film on video and commented about all the stupid things that people do. I didn't want to make fun of horror. I wanted to parody the stupid things bad horror movies do. I thought by sending up these clichés, other filmmakers may realize how dumb some of them are and come up with better and more original ideas.
In 1988 horror was still thriving and THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE seemed like an affordable film to do in a genre that could make money while still doing something a little different that I hadn't seen done well before. STUDENT BODIES had moments but fell apart. I had never really seen a monster movie comedy horror before with a character who really knows horror films and tells her friends what they need to do to survive.
Raising some money independently with the help of friends and family, I was able to shoot NOTHING in the summer of 1989 on Super 16 for roughly $200,000 at the age of twenty. (For the complete story of NOTHING, you can check out my "book" called "MAKING NOTHING AT THE AGE OF 20" on my website, www.theresnothingoutthere.com).
And to make a long story short, after moving to Los Angeles, directing another ten movies, having over twenty of my scripts produced, I was finally able to get back to the genre I love, 14 years later, and make my second horror/comedy THE HAZING.
Q: THE HAZING does a great job of playing with those horror stereotypes & having fun with the genre. It almost seems like an extension of THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE in the sense that has a wry sense of humor it deals with an isolated group of people being picked off one by one.
Well, here's a little history about THE HAZING. When I first moved to L.A. over ten years ago now, I met Joseph Wolf (a producer on "Halloween", "A Nightmare On Elm Street" and "Hell Night") to name a few. He optioned THE HOST, my horror script from college for one dollar. I did some rewrites and as he tried to get the project set up (unsuccessfully) I pitched him a sequel to HELL NIGHT called HELL NIGHT 2: THE HAZING". He wasn't interested so a few years later, a French producer who I'd been working for was about to make a series of erotic sci-fi, fantasy, and horror movies entitled, "THE SEX FILES".
Well, in the meantime, SCREAM had been made, came out, and was successful to say the least. Many people saw the same ideas between THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE and SCREAM. THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE had already turned into a slight cult film and after SCREAM, it became know by some as the "pre-SCREAM", the film that slightly influenced this new boom in horror. Some thought I should remake THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE. Others thought I should do my own version of SCREAM. I wasn't really interested in doing either but I still loved horror/comedy and so I thought taking THE HAZING out of HELL NIGHT and trying to write an original script that turned into SCREAM meets EVIL DEAD. What are the rules when there are no rules? When anything can happen.
I convinced my producer to let me write a horror script that could take place on the same set he was building for one of THE SEX FILES films. I would write two scripts, an erotic horror film and a straight horror film for the same location. It's an old Roger Corman trick and Alain agreed. Thus, THE HAZING was born.
We cast many of the parts, built the haunted house set, and shot some Halloween parade footage on 35mm. The erotic horror film, "RESTLESS SOULS" went first and was made but at the last minute, Alain pulled the plug on THE HAZING. He couldn't get enough pre-sales on the project. So, the cast left, the sets were torn down, and the project sat on the shelves for almost eight years.
I tried to set up the project myself and talked to people in Holland, Russia, dealt with William Morris, shot more Halloween footage every Halloween but couldn't quite get it together.
Until Alain met Tom Seidman. Tom wanted to start producing, liked the script, raised the money, and after eight years, THE HAZING was a reality.
As for THE HAZING being an extension of THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE, yes, I'd have to say there are similar elements but it also plays on that. If you really examine THE HAZING you'll see it twists all the characters from NOTHING. The hero of NOTHING "Mike", the funny sarcastic guy is one of the first people killed in THE HAZING as "Roy". The first victim "David" in NOTHING is a nerdy guy. In THE HAZING, that character "Tim" is the hero. I played on expectations and twisted them. The blonde bimbo "Doreen" in THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE" is a stereotype who has sex and gets killed. In THE HAZING, "Delia" is the blonde bimbo who is not really a blonde bimbo and turns into the smart girl who saves the day and lives.
In my opinion, it is the characters that make THE HAZING a little fresh and new while I was "homaging" all my Sam Raimi/haunted house influences. In terms of plot, no there is nothing new and original in THE HAZING but that was always the point. Let's take a story that been told many times and put real people into it. So, you don't know who will live or die since the stereotypes aren't following the rules. In my mind it was "THE BREAKFAST CLUB" meets "EVIL DEAD".
Q: Speaking of THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE, is there going to be a sequel?
I did write a sequel to THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE while I was still editing the first film. It picks up exactly where the first one ending and continues with Mike's adventures. Unfortunately, NOTHING never became a big enough success to get any real interest in the sequel, THERE'S STILL NOTHING OUT THERE", although a company did option the script a few years ago and actually made a cool poster. It's on my website at www.rolfekanefsky.com under my future projects. A part of me would still like to make it and the fact that it's set in 1989 is a plus. I'd love to do the project as a period piece. The few people who have read the script really enjoyed it and to this day, people are asking about a follow-up. So, maybe someday. I am still in contact with Craig Peck (the actor who played "Mike") who said he's up for it. Who knows?
Q: How was it to work with Brad Dourif, who is becoming somewhat of a horror icon?
Brad Dourif was awesome on THE HAZING. I've always been a fan of his work and when I heard, he was interested in the part, I jumped for joy. He was always at the top of the list to play the evil Professor Kapps. And Brad was a total pro. It wasn't just a "give me the money and go" thing. He really worked on the character, added a lot to it and worked hard with Tiffany Shepis and Philip Andrew (who become him later in the film) on the accent. He also worked hard with Brooke Burke, since it was her first feature. He was a very giving actor and I wish I had more time to work with him.
Q: Talk a bit about the other actors--
The rest of the cast on THE HAZING was also wonderful. I had know Tiffany Shepis for years and actually, she had tried to raise the money for THE HAZING four years ago when she had her own distribution company. Tiffany always loved the part of "Marsha" and I was delighted I was able to cast her years later. She was perfect. I didn't know any of the other actors with the exception of the one actor I've put in almost every movie I'd made, Robert Donavan, a great comedic actor who really should be doing bigger and better things. (See "ROD STEELE 0014: YOU ONLY LIVE UNTIL YOU DIE".) But all the actors were a joy to work with. Everyone really liked the project and wanted to do it. Nectar Rose was perfect for Delia. Jeremy Maxwell was funny and likeable as Roy. Philip Andrew was cool and really got into the part of Doug. Parry Shen had just come off "BETTER LUCK TOMORROW" and "THE NEW GUY" and gave a real warmth and openness to Tim. They were all troopers and I think all are very pleased with the final movie.
Q: What are some of your future projects?
Since "THE HAZING" I've had the most miserable experience of my life making a zombie comedy called CORPSES for York Entertainment. However, I was able to work with Tiffany Shepis again and Robert Donavan and Jeff Fahey, who was also a wonderful pro. It's an incredibly cheap movie but if you have enough to drink and are in the right mood for a very silly zombie film, you might get a kick out of it. The cast was great. The producers were not. For the record, I did not know about SHUAN OF THE DEAD when I made CORPSES.
However, after CORPSES, I went right into my own project, a sexy horror thriller entitled JACQUELINE HYDE. I wrote/directed and for the first time co-produced the film with Gabriella Hall, who also stars. It's a modern female take on the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale and I call it a cross between LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR and DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. We are screening it at the AFM on November 6th and 9th.
JACQUELINE HYDE is the first film in a hopefully new slate of horror movies that I plan to make next year for my own production company VALKHN FILMS (the new production arm branching off from my father's New York-based company.)
If HYDE does well, I've got a whole slew of scripts ready to go including IMAGES OF FEAR, NEVERMORE, DEMONS SUCK!, RING OF DESIRE, and so on.
At the moment, THE HOST is starting to get some interest again and I'm dealing with a new producer who hopes to make a bunch of 80's horror remakes next year. Too early to talk about titles but I'm developing some treatments and may end up making one or two of them in things go as planned. I'm also starting to go up for some bigger 5-10 million dollar projects which would be awesome. And I'm still looking for some decent representation. I have not had any agent or manager for the last six years but that doesn't stop me from working. It would be nice to get a support group to help open some doors but in the meantime, I'll just keep making movies and hopefully one day soon, some of the films that I'm really proud of like TOMORROW BY MIDNIGHT starring Alexis Arquette and Carol Kane and PRETTY COOL with Alexis Thorpe and Summer Altice will see the light of day. MTI Home Video has expressed interest in PRETTY COOL for DVD and TOMORROW BY MIDNIGHT has won Best Feature in a few film festivals. Trailers are up on my site for these titles as well.
But with the small success of THE HAZING, the November 30th release of CORPSES, and my first produced feature JACQUELINE HYDE ready to go, hopefully things will really get moving. Thanks for taking the time to interview me. If you or anyone else have further question, send me an e-mail at Rolfe@theresnothingoutthere.com