Founder & Executive Director
Jeff McCarter is the Founder & Executive Director of Free Spirit Media, which he created in 2001 in order to share his experience as a media professional (Emmy Award-winning producer, cameraman, director, and editor) with young people from under-resourced communities. Jeff witnessed the lack of diversity in both representation and opportunity in mainstream media. Now, Free Spirit Media transforms media and society by providing opportunities for emerging creators, primarily from communities of color, to produce and distribute original content and to pursue artistic, personal and professional aspirations.
Jeff worked on feature films directed by Steven Soderbergh and Ron Howard, and on documentary television with ABC News, PBS, and WTTW Chicago. He earned a BA in Humanities and Film Production at the University of Colorado and has studied Non-Profit Strategy and Management at Harvard Business School, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Jeff is a founding co-chair of the Chicago Youth Voices Network and serves on the boards of Chicago Access Network Television (CAN TV), the Advocate Bethany Community Health Fund, and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Chicago/Midwest Chapter. He is a thought leader in the fields of creative workforce development and youth media education, and has presented at multiple conferences, including Digital Media and Learning, the Alliance for Community Media, and the Alliance for Media Arts & Culture. Jeff is a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Emerging Leaders Program, the National Arts Strategies CEO Program, and is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago and the Chicago Ideas Co-Op. He lives with his family on Chicago’s West Side.