Life has a funny way of knocking us back to Earth when things are going well -- just ask Elgin James. The writer and director was earning accolades at Sundance earlier this year for his debut film, 'Little Birds,' and had just landed his first Hollywood writing job. Now he'll be spending the next year in jail after being sentenced in a 2005 plot to extort $5,000 from a man. If all goes well he could be out in 10 months.

James, who grew up in rough circumstances before landing in a leadership position with the street gang Friends Stand United, has moved on from his violent past. However, this latest run-in with the legal system stands as a stark reminder that things done earlier in life can come back to haunt us.

For his part, James is taking the news of his impending incarceration well. While serving his sentence, he'll continue to work on a script for 'Low Riders,' a film being described as "an '8 Mile'-style drama about a parolee who tries to put his past behind him as he immerses himself in the low rider car sub-culture."

'Low Riders' comes on the heels of 'Little Birds,' a drama about two girls from Salton Sea who wind up on the streets of Los Angeles. The film, which co-stars Kate Bosworth and Leslie Mann, hasn't been picked up for distribution yet, but is expected to in the near future. 'Little Birds' has earned praise for the personal nature of the story and the acting of leads Kay Panabaker and Juno Temple.

This isn't the filmmaker's first run in with the law. James has attempted to turn those negatives into the fodder for his cinematic work, though -- and stands as one of the few Hollywood talents who can actually write about life on the mean streets from first-hand experience. The filmmaker has shunned his violent past, but it seems likely that it will always color his work on some level.

The new James, who has become a pacifist and doesn't even yell on the set, has taken responsibility for his actions. He told the judge, "The last few months have been a juxtaposition of the best and worst of my life. Today I faced my day of reckoning. ... I have accepted responsibility for my past, and I am now looking forward to continuing my film career."

We wish him the best and hope he continues to turn his life around.

[via Deadline]