Cara Mertes is part of the International Programs team, serving as project director for Moving Image Strategies. She works with Ford’s 10 regional offices to design and implement a range of visual storytelling approaches tied to the foundation’s international strategies. Previously, she was director for JustFilms, the foundation’s creative documentary portfolio, supporting artist-led films, strengthening organizations and networks for independent and artist-driven content, and developing inclusive leadership and resources in this field.
Throughout her career as a nonprofit executive, award-winning executive producer and producer/director, broadcast programmer, curator, teacher, and writer, Cara has championed the leadership role of artists in society, and worked to harness the power of cultural expression—with an emphasis on nonfiction storytelling—to amplify awareness and accelerate progressive change.
Before joining the foundation, Cara served for eight years as director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund and was part of the Sundance Institute’s leadership team. In that role, she oversaw the growth of the Documentary Film Program and Fund and led her team in funding and mentoring hundreds of filmmakers from around the world, expanding the annual portfolio of activities to include new funding, additional labs, and new global partnerships to increase impact and resources for the field. There she led a series of new initiatives, co-founded Doc Society’s Good Pitch event and training model, and created the Stories of Change initiative with the Skoll Foundation.
Earlier, Cara was executive producer of the PBS documentary series POV. She led an expansion of POV/American Documentary, producing an annual prime-time series and PBS specials that brought dozens of award-winning films to public television viewers. She received multiple Emmy Awards, George Foster Peabody Awards, and duPont-Columbia Awards and was awarded a Webby Award for her pioneering web series on PBS, POV’s Borders. She was also executive producer of several Academy Award-nominated films, including Street Fight, Nerakhoon: Betrayal, and My Country, My Country, and served as executive director of American Documentary.
Cara has served on numerous nonprofit boards and festival juries and is a member of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Writers Guild of America, and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. She earned her BA from Vassar College and her MA from Hunter College. Cara also completed the Whitney Independent Study Program as a Helena Rubenstein Curatorial Fellow and Harvard University’s owner/president management program as a Ford Fellow.