I'll never forget the rat infestation in my apartment on 25th Street in New York City. I was 25 years old at the time, working as a production assistant for $100 a day wherever I could. The building next door was under construction, and ripping up the ground dug up all the rats that came with it. Suddenly they were everywhere. I'll never forget the day we spent wearing breathing masks and rubber gloves, scrubbing our apartment from head to toe, tossing the rotting carcasses into a trash bag. At one point I looked at my brother and said "I'm 25. I have $300 in a bank account. Most of my friends have professional degrees, houses, and health insurance. And I'm cleaning up dead mice in a sweltering walk-up on 25th Street."
My brother looked at me and said, "Yeah, but you won't be for long."
Six months later I moved to California, and after another three years of asking everyone I ever met for money, I raised the financing, and I was directing my first film, “Cabin Fever."
But I'll never forget that moment I bottomed out. Looking back, it was the best thing that could have happened. I think in life we tend to expect things to happen for us because we want them to, and you need moments like that to remind you that simply wishing for your dream isn't enough. You have to take responsibility and make things happen for yourself.
It took me six years to raise the money for "Cabin Fever," but I did it and eventually sold the film for double its cost. I'd like to thank those rats. Their rotting carcasses gave me the final push I needed to take matters into my own hands and create the future I had always dreamed of.
Eli Roth is an American film director, producer, writer, and actor. www.eli-roth.net