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Sheila Nevins
The Princess Switch
Nevins in 2014
Born (1939-04-06) April 6, 1939 (age 84)
Nationality American
Education Little Red School House
High School of Performing Arts
Alma mater Barnard College
Yale School of Drama
Occupation Television producer
Documentary filmmaker
Years active 1960-present
Known for President of HBO Documentary Films
Sidney Koch
(m. 1972)
Children 1

Sheila Nevins (born April 6, 1939) is an American television producer and head of MTV Documentary Films division of MTV Studios. Previously, Nevins was the President of HBO Documentary Films. She has produced over 1,000 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 35 News and Documentary Emmy Awards, 42 Peabody Awards, and 26 Academy Awards. Nevins has won 31 individual Primetime Emmy Awards, more than any other person. She is also a member of the Peabody Awards board of directors, which is presented by the University of Georgia's Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Early life and education

Nevins was born to a Jewish family on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City to Stella Nevins (née Rosenberg), a chemist, and Benjamin Nevins, a Russian immigrant post office worker who was also a bookie. Nevins' family was very poor and her mother suffered from an acute form of Raynaud's disease, which resulted in amputations of her limbs, and scleroderma. Nevins has a younger sister (born 1946) who is a doctor.

Due to the generosity of her uncle, who was a wealthy inventor, Nevins attended private schools growing up. Nevins 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, where she was one of two women in the directing program.


In the 1960s, Nevins began her career at the United States Information Agency in Washington, D.C. She was hired to play a secretary in the USIA TV series called Adventures in English, which was created to teach English vocabulary, which her character repeated, in foreign countries. Nevins then worked as a researcher, cataloging historical footage about World War II at the Library of Congress. Nevins said that this immersive work inspired her to shift focus from the fictional world of theater to the fact-based world of documented in film.

From 1970 to 1973, after moving back to New York, Nevins apprenticed with director Don Mischer and producer Bob Squire. Nevins then got a job as a researcher on Al Perlmutter's on the groundbreaking Channel 13 TV show The Great American Dream Machine, eventually working her way up to doing segments and "man on the street" interviews. Nevins also worked as a director. Inspired by the film Salesman, she hired Albert and David Maysles to direct parts of the show.

In 1973, Nevins was a Field Producer for The Reasoner Report on ABC News.

From 1973 to 1975, Nevins wrote for Time-Life Films. She worked briefly for 20/20. Nevins declined Don Hewitt's invitation to be a producer for 60 Minutes.

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.

In 1978 and 1979, Nevins was a producer for the CBS News magazine Who's Who.


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.

From 1999 to 2003, Nevins was the Executive Vice President of Original Programming at HBO. In 1998, Nevins said that she produced 12 documentaries a year at HBO, with budgets that were typically US$600,000 in 1998 dollars.

Nevins was HBO's President of Documentary and Family Programming since 2004.

In March 2018, Nevins retired from her position at HBO.


In 2007, Nevins wrote the foreword to the book Addiction: Why Can't They Just Stop?, which was based on the HBO documentary series of the same name, and was produced in association with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

In 2017, Nevins published a memoir, You Don't Look Your Age... and Other Fairy Tales. Nevins explores concepts of aging, youth, and experience. Some of the book features lightly fictionalized vignettes and poetry. Kathy Bates, Gloria Vanderbilt, Lily Tomlin, Martha Stewart, Meryl Streep, RuPaul, among many others, contributed audio performances to the audio version of the book.

Personal life

In 1963, Nevins married a lawyer who also attended Yale. 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. The marriage ended in divorce.

In 1972, Nevins married investment banker Sidney Koch. The pair had a home in Litchfield, Connecticut and an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. They have one son, David Koch (born 1980). She has discussed her son's struggle with Tourette syndrome and her struggle to be a working mother with a son who was ill.

Nevins produced an HBO documentary about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire called Triangle: Remembering the Fire, to which she had a personal connection, which she found out about after seeing the documentary Schmatta. Nevins' great-aunt Celia Gittlin, a 17-year-old immigrant from Russia, had died in the fire.

Nevins enjoys theater and is an admirer of Gloria Steinem, who she has deemed "next to my mother, the most important woman I’ve ever met."

Honors and awards

Cable Ace Awards

  • 1995: Documentary Special for Gang War: Bangin' In Little Rock
  • 1997: Documentary Special for Heart of a Child

Peabody Awards

  • 1981: Peabody Award for She’s Nobody’s Baby: The History of American Women in the 20th Century – shared by HBO and Ms. magazine
  • 1999: Peabody Award, Personal Award
  • 2006: Peabody Award for Baghdad ER
  • 2013: Peabody Award for Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God and for Life According to Sam

Primetime Emmy Awards

  • 1995: Outstanding Informational Special for One Survivor Remembers
  • 1995: Outstanding Informational Special for Taxicab Confessions
  • 1995: Outstanding Children's Program for Going, Going, Almost Gone! Animals in Danger
  • 1997: Outstanding Informational Special for Without Pity: A Film About Abilities
  • 1997: Outstanding Children's Program for How Do You Spell God?
  • 1999: Outstanding Nonfiction Special for Thug Life in D.C.
  • 2000: Outstanding Nonfiction Special for Children in War
  • 2000: Outstanding Children's Program for Goodnight Moon & Other Sleepytime Tales
  • 2003: Outstanding Children's Program for Through a Child's Eyes: September 11, 2001
  • 2004: Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special for Elaine Stritch at Liberty
  • 2004: Outstanding Children's Program for Happy to Be Nappy and Other Stories of Me
  • 2005: Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2005: Outstanding Children's Program for Classical Baby
  • 2005: Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking for Death in Gaza
  • 2006: Outstanding Children's Program for I Have Tourette's but Tourette's Doesn't Have Me
  • 2006: Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking for Baghdad ER
  • 2007: Outstanding Nonfiction Special for Ghosts of Abu Ghraib
  • 2007: Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking for When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
  • 2008: Outstanding Children's Program for Classical Baby (I'm Grown Up Now): The Poetry Show
  • 2008: Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking for White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • 2009: Governor's Award for the Creative Arts Emmy Awards
  • 2009: Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking for The Alzheimer's Project: The Memory Loss Tapes
  • 2009: Outstanding Children's Nonfiction Program for The Alzheimer's Project: Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am? with Maria Shriver
  • 2010: Outstanding Nonfiction Special for Teddy: In His Own Words
  • 2011: Outstanding Children's Program for A Child's Garden of Poetry
  • 2013: Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special for Manhunt: The Search for Bin Laden
  • 2013: Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking for Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
  • 2014: Outstanding Children's Program for One Last Hug: Three Days at Grief Camp
  • 2014: Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking for Life According to Sam
  • 2015: Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series for The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
  • 2015: Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special for Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
  • 2015: Outstanding Picture Editing For Nonfiction Programming for The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
  • 2016: Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking for Jim: The James Foley Story
  • 2018: Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special for The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling

Selected filmography

  • 1981: She’s Nobody’s Baby: The History of American Women in the 20th Century – HBO and Ms. magazine
  • 1983-1985: Braingames – creator, executive producer
  • 1991-2005: America Undercover – executive producer
  • 1995: One Survivor Remembers – senior producer
  • 1997: 4 Little Girls – executive producer
  • 2001: Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen – executive producer

Works and publications

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