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Eli Raphael Roth (born April 18, 1972) is an American film director, producer, writer and actor. He is part of the group of filmmakers dubbed The Splat Pack, because of their association and their focus on the horror genre. Roth is known for making violent, low-budget horror films. He is currently single and has never been married.
Roth was born in Newton, Massachusetts to Dr. Sheldon Roth, a psychiatrist/psychoanalyst and professor at Harvard University, and Cora Roth, a painter. His grandparents immigrated from Austria, Russia and Poland, and Roth was raised Jewish.
Roth began shooting films at the age of eight after watching Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). He made over 50 short films with his brothers Adam and Gabe before graduating at Newton South High School and attending film school (the Tisch School of the Arts) at New York University, from which he graduated in 1994.
By the age of 20, and while still a student at NYU, Roth ran the office of producer Frederick Zollo, eventually leaving to devote himself to writing full-time.
Actress Camryn Manheim gave Roth one of his first jobs in Hollywood, putting him on as an extra on The Practice when he first moved to Los Angeles. Roth would stay in Manheim’s dressing room working on his scripts while she filmed the show. The two had met and become friends while Roth was working for Fred Zollo in New York City. Roth also met Manheim’s cousin Howie Nuchow (former EVP of Mandalay Sports Entertainment and also from the Boston, MA area) at Camryn’s family passover seder—this led to Roth’s first animation project “Chowdaheads” in the year that followed. Roth also co-wrote a project called “The Extra” with Manheim; Manheim would later sell the pitch to producer (and former CEO and Chairman of Fox Studios) Bill Mechanic’s Pandemonium company.
In his final years (1993/1994) at NYU film school, Roth wrote and directed a student film called Restaurant Dogs as an homage to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. The film was nominated for a Student Academy Award in 1995, and won its division (Division III.) Through his internship with producer Fred Zollo in years prior, Roth met David Lynch and remained in contact with him over the years, eventually producing content for Lynch with his fledgling website in the late 1990s. Roth met film and TV composer Angelo Badalamenti through Lynch; he would later use Badalamenti’s music in his first feature film. He also met a member of special effects company KNB EFX through Lynch; KNB EFX would later contribute to his first feature.
Roth moved from NYC to LA in 1999; shortly thereafter he wrote, directed, edited, produced, animated, and provided voices for a series of animated shorts called Chowdaheads for Mandalay Sports Entertainment. The shorts were intended to be shown between WCW Monday Nitro pro wrestling matches, but the C.E.O. of WCW who had green lit the project was fired the weekend before they were supposed to be aired, and they were never actually broadcast, despite being completed. Roth’s friend Noah Belson co-wrote the shorts and provided the other character voices.
After receiving financial backup from the website Z.com to deliver a 5-minute pilot, Roth wrote, directed, animated and produced a series of stop-motion shorts in mid-2000 called The Rotten Fruit. The company (z.com) folded shortly after several episodes were completed, and the domain name “z.com” was picked up by Nissan years later to promote their sports car of the same name. A portion of the work for The Rotten Fruit was done at the Snake Pit studios in Burbank using miniature sets, poseable clay and foam figures, two high-end digital still cameras, and a pair of Macintosh computers. Roth’s friend Noah Belson co-wrote the shorts and performed all the character voices.
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