Michael Smith is an artist, journalist and film producer and a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He completed Jesse's Gone as his masters thesis at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California-Berkeley. While studying there he realized that his mild dyslexia proved to be too great a barrier to his dream of being a print journalist, so he turned to TV journalism as a natural match for his abilities and passions. Smith studied under the celebrated Marlon Riggs while attending U.C. Berkeley.