Faculty Biography

Michael Litle

A college semester in France put Professor Litle in front of Godard's Pierrot-Le-Fou for multiple screenings and a paper about the French New Wave. A great distributor, Arthur Mayer (he brought The Bicycle Thief to New York) liked Litle's poetic response to Carl Dreyer's silent film The Trial of Joan of Arc. An open-minded professor of philosophy, Scott-Craig allowed Litle to make Stan Brackage-like movies instead of write papers. Litle's second son, Joshua, was born as he finished an M.A. in Communication at Stanford in 1969. It was the week men walked on the moon.

A few years later, Litle got a half-time teaching position at his alma mater, Dartmouth, and ran a big film society. When his satire about college town mores, Erogenous Jones, Ph.D., won first prize at the University Film Association's festival, Dr. Bob Wagner offered Litle a full-time job teaching experimental film at Ohio State University. A decade later a favorite OSU student, Steve Wasserman, became the head writer for the hit TV series about teens in Beverly Hills. As Litle's first marriage broke up, he learned real film theory from the brilliant but little known Czech Mjomir Drovota.

To complete his Ph.D. thesis, two films in contrasting styles: The Broken Egg and Zen Soap, Litle was guided by Dr. John Fell, author of many good books on film.

In 1977, Litle moved to San Francisco where he worked part-time teaching amazing graduate students, some from other countries. Vicente Franco would go on to make wonderful documentaries. Two young men from Iran would go on to join a revolution.

Litle met his current wife, Wendy Cassel, made Papa's Blue, and published a second article on 'Teaching Filmmaking' in the UFA magazine.

His first article "The Sound Track of The Rules Of The Game" was reprinted in Film Sound, a Columbia University anthology edited by Elisabeth Weis & John Belton.

Litle spent the next five part-time years as a filmmaker (Make-A-Circus - aired on KQED), a carpenter, an editor of many short pieces, and a script-writer. Clients included Realtime, Short-Cuts, Levi-Strauss, Hewlett Packard, KTVU, Zenger-Miller. Teaming with the late Jamie Kibben, Litle formed Industrial Strength Production to produce Take a Chance, a three part motivational series for PG&E that revived a discredited suggestion program. The next year in 1985 Carl Jensen, founder of Project Censored hired Litle to teach in the nascent Communication Studies program.

Most of us learn best through lots of hands-on practice mingled with discussion and readings. Litle's article on how to teach film stresses the design of projects that stretch all the aspects of filmmaking within a compressed period. He was blessed to be commissioned by community agencies to make a number of videos, including: Sweat Equity (people building their first homes for Burbank Housing), Health Choices 2000 (a ten-half hour talk show with field packages series for Memorial Hospital), The Blue Thread (an anti-sweat shop drama in six languages for the California Labor Commission), Every Fifteen Minutes (a staged documentary about a tragic car accident at a high school, where the student director Clay Burton, won Best Doc & Best In Show at the California State University Film & Video Festival), Point Reyes National Seashore Science Research (interviews with scientists ranging from elephant seal colony to salmon restoration), and Youth in Arts for the Sonoma Council for the Arts (high school and college public-space spontaneous performances now on YouTube).

A number of students distinguished themselves on independent projects. Randal Bodlak was given the experimental award at the CSU Festival by Francis Ford Coppola. First place ($5000 divided among three students) at the National Association of Broadcast Professionals for an anti-racism spot. One student from that project went directly to work at Pixar. Dina Mande started a production company for training commercial directors in LA. Ruby Stillwater works regularly as an AD on features. Paul Sarran records location sound when features are shot in Sonoma County. The guy who started the video magazine in 1988, Ken Duncan, now runs two TV stations in Arizona.

Courses Taught

  • Principles of Mass Communication
  • Methods of Media Criticism
  • Media Ethics
  • Storytelling via Video
  • Advanced Digital Filmmaking
  • Selected Topics