Update: Grace Achieved: Audience Dramatic Winner James C. Strouse

UPDATE: GRACE IS GONE, a touching story of a family’s survival after the loss of the mother in Iraq, made its theatrical debut on December 7, 2007, went on after Sundance to win the Critics Award at the Deauville Film Festival.


James C. Strouse, the writer/director behind this year’s Audience Award winning feature GRACE IS GONE [festival.sundance.org] is quick to define himself as a Midwestern, and more directly as a native Indianan. Having grown up and gone to college in Goshen, Indiana, Strouse finds his creative heart back in his home state. “I’ve been in New York for the past eight years,” he admits, “but I still consider myself a Midwesterner, first and foremost.”

Growing up in Indiana Strouse loved cinema, even though he did immediately dream of becoming a filmmaker. “As a teenager I was obsessed with the movies. My family was late In getting a VCR so I would just go to the video store and read all the synopses in anticipation of the day I’d be able to rent videos.” Instead Strouse turned to fiction, writing numerous short stories about plain people caught up in complex lives in the Midwest. His first foray into film, a script called LONESOME JIM [www.lonesomejim-film.com] about a drifting man returning home to Indiana, captured with empathy and love Midwestern life. It impressed actor/director Steven Buscemi enough that he took on the job directing it, and the final project showed in Sundance 2005.

Having watched LONESOME JIM being made, Sprouse quickly saw film was a director’s media, and decided to step up and try to direct his next script. The idea for GRACE IS GONE came through Sprouse’s creative process; “It just kind of came like any other idea…from a mixture of personal experience and invention. I approach writing through the characters I’ve created. Once I invent the characters I try to let them tell me what to do.” The characters in GRACE IS GONE — a straight-shooting dad that learns his wife has been killed in Iraq and the two daughters he wants to protect from a motherless future — resounded with many Sundance viewers. But while Strouse has arrived as a filmmaker, he has not left behind his writing origins. He has just finished Noble County, a collection of short stories set in, of course, Indiana.

Peter Bowen

Senior Editor, Filmmaker Magazine