Carruth was born in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He attended Stephen F. Austin State University as a math major. Before becoming a filmmaker, he used to be a developer of flight simulation software. Carruth wrote, directed, produced, and performed one of the two main roles, and composed the music for his independent film Primer, which was honored at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival with the Grand Jury Prize and the Alfred P. Sloan Award. Carruth, a former software engineer with an undergraduate degree in math, utilized his technical knowledge on the project. On January 21, 2013, Carruth premiered his film Upstream Color at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition category.