Cara Mertes is director of Ford Foundation’s JustFilms initiative, a global effort that supports emerging and established filmmakers whose work addresses the most urgent social issues of our time. JustFilms also supports key organizations that explore and sustain the art of contemporary-issue, nonfiction storytelling. The initiative seeks to expand networks and resources for the community of independent filmmakers around the world and to increase the artistry and impact of their stories.
Throughout her two-decade career, Cara has championed the artist’s role in society and embodied the power of independent filmmaking to raise awareness on issues of critical importance. Before joining the foundation in 2013, she was director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund. In that role, she expanded the annual portfolio of activities to include funding and awards of $2 million for dozens of social issue films. She also expanded the Documentary Labs and extended support opportunities to more than 100 Sundance grantee artists each year. Cara was instrumental in creating a suite of international creative partnerships to launch global initiatives, including the Skoll Foundation Stories of Change partnership and the TED Prize Filmmaker Award, and was a co-founder of BritDoc Foundation’s Good Pitch initiative. She accepted the ACLU Freedom of Expression Award and the International Documentary Association’s Pioneer Award for the Documentary Film Program’s efforts.
Earlier, Cara was executive producer of the PBS “POV” documentary series, where she received multiple Emmy awards, George Foster Peabody awards, duPont-Columbia awards and a Webby award, and she was executive producer of several Academy Award-nominated films. She also served as executive director of American Documentary Inc., produced and directed for PBS, curated “Independent Focus” for WNET/New York, and has taught and written about independent documentary and social change.
Cara earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Vassar College and is completing work for a master’s degree in communications from Hunter College. She is a graduate of Harvard University’s Owner/President Management Program and a member of WGA East and AMPAS.