Howard E. Smith grew up in Chicago, Illinois. While at Northwestern University in the late 60s he wrote, directed, shot and edited over 50 short films and while there received one of the first AFI grants to independent filmmakers. With that grant he made the award winning short, "Still?" Smith was then invited to attend the AFI Center for Advanced Film Studies in Los Angeles in 1970 as a Directing and Cinematography Fellow. While there he worked with Tim Hunter, Terrence Malick, David Lynch, Alan Splet, and Stanton Kaye among others. He edited Stanton Kaye's masterpiece, the feature In Pursuit of Treasure, starring Scott Glenn, Elizabeth Hartman, Jay Silverheels, Bonnie Bedelia, and produced by Gill Dennis.