Sheila Nevins is an American television producer and the President of HBO Documentary Films. She has produced over one thousand documentary films for HBO and is one of the most influential people in documentary filmmaking. She has worked on productions that have been recognized with over 65 Primetime Emmy Awards, 46 Peabody Awards, and 26 Academy Awards. Nevins has won 32 individual Primetime Emmy Awards, more than any other person.
Nevins was born on April 6, 1939 in Manhattan, New York to Stella, a chemist, and Benjamin Nevins, a Russian immigrant post office worker and bookmaker. Her mother suffered from Raynaud's disease and scleroderma. Her uncle was a wealthy inventor and helped pay for her schooling. She didn't have a television growing up until she was in high school. She attended Little Red School House and the High School of Performing Arts in New York City. She received a BA in English from Barnard College in 1960. In 1963 she received an MFA in Directing from the Yale School of Drama. She married a Yale lawyer in the 1960s. Though she wanted to pursue a theater career, her husband wanted her to be home evenings and weekends, forcing her to find a daytime job.
Nevins began her career at the United States Information Agency as an actress in Adventures in English. In 1975 she began working as a writer and producer for the Children's Television Workshop. She also worked at Scribner making recordings of books for blind people. Nevins was a researcher then associate producer for The Great American Dream Machine on National Educational Television. She worked under Alvin H. Perlmutter from 1971 to 1973 and did "man on the street" interviews. Inspired by the film Salesman, she hired Albert and David Maysles to direct parts of the show. Nevins was a Field Producer for The Reasoner Report on ABC News in 1973. She wrote for Time-Life Films from 1973 to 1975 and worked briefly for 20/20. Nevins was a producer for the CBS news magazine Who's Who in 1978 and 1979. Nevins declined Don Hewitt's invitation to be a producer for 60 Minutes.
In 1979, Nevins was hired by HBO as Director of Documentary Programming on a 13-week contract. She continued in that position until 1982.
From 1983 to 1985, Nevins had a production company called Spinning Reels and created the animated educational program Braingames.
In 1986, Nevins returned to HBO as Vice President of Documentary Programming. In 1995, she became the Senior Vice President of Original Programming. Nevin's tenure at HBO saw the rise of sexually-themed programming in the America Undercover documentary series.
In 2000, Nevins was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. She was the Executive Vice President of Original Programming from 1999 to 2003. She has been HBO's President of Documentary and Family Programming since 2004.
In 2007, Nevins wrote the introduction for the book Addiction: Why Can't They Just Stop'
In 2011, Nevins was honored by the Directors Guild of America for her "unwavering commitment to documentary filmmakers and the advancement of the documentary genre."
In 2013, Nevins received the Woman of Achievement Award from the Women's Project Theater and a Visionary Leadership Award from the International Festival of Arts & Ideas.
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