38-year veteran of cable channel tells Maureen Dowd, 'I was, like, born at HBO and I don’t have to die there'
Sheila Nevins, one of the pillars of the documentary world, plans to step down from HBO after 38 years with the network, according to an interview she gave to the New York Times Saturday.
"I have deprived my life of a life. All I did was work. I was, like, born at HBO and I don’t have to die there," Nevins, 78, told columnist Maureen Dowd. "If I stayed any longer, I probably would have died at my desk. I just regret that there’s so little time left.”
I’m not interested in famous people. I don’t trust the sameness of the story you get from celebrity.
Nevins has served as president of HBO Documentary Films since 2004, earning over her career an astonishing 32 Primetime Emmy Awards and 42 Peabody Awards. Documentaries that have come out of her unit have won 26 Academy Awards, including 2014's Citizenfour. and the 2015 short doc A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.
She has supervised more than a thousand documentary films and series over her years at HBO. Earlier this year she published a memoir, You Don't Look Your Age... and Other Fairy Tales.
According to Dowd, Nevins "is taking several projects with her when she leaves that she will finish at home. She is musing about a radio show with Sirius called 'Kicking Ass With Sheila Nevins' and maybe another book."
The piece credited Nevins with helping "change the image of documentaries from stodgy to provocative," a statement more than validated by HBO titles that range from Alex Gibney's recent Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief and the explicit series Real Sex and Taxicab Confessions.
But under Nevins, HBO's nonfiction slate came to be known equally for telling stories of ostensibly everyday people.
“I do have a philosophy about documentaries, which is that I really do believe that almost everybody has a story,” Nevins told the New York Times. “I love ordinary people. And they’re often very heroic. And very interesting. I don’t like fame. I’m not interested in famous people. I don’t trust the sameness of the story you get from celebrity. The few times I’ve had to deal with celebrity, I’ve read the same thing they say somewhere else.”
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.