Director Ellory Elkayem grew up making amateur kung fu films in high school before receiving formal training. While working his way up the production ranks on commercials and television shows, he made a few short films on the side with financial help from the New Zealand Film Commission. Elkayem's breakthrough came with 1998's loving pastiche "Larger Than Life," a 13-minute monster movie homage featuring a young heroine battling mutant spiders in her house. After screening at the Telluride Film Festival, it drew the attention of science-fiction blockbuster "Independence Day" production team Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, who subsequently agreed to co-produce a big-budget version. Bringing the project to the screen took several years, during which Elkayem warmed up for his arachnid adventures with 2000's deadly cockroach television movie "They Nest." Finally, he made his feature debut in 2002 with an upgraded version of his short, now known as "Eight Legged Freaks." Lower-budget efforts include traveling to Romania in 2004 to make two linked zombie films in a row with Peter Coyote, the affably over-the-top "Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis" and "Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave." The films found a small cult following, but the same couldn't be said for the 2009 direct-to-video comedy "Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling."