Nevins in 2014
|Education||Little Red School House|
High School of Performing Arts
|Alma mater||Barnard College|
Yale School of Drama
|Known for||President of HBO Documentary Films|
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 32 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. 
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. Nevin's tenure at HBO saw the rise of sexually-themed programming in the America Undercover documentary series.
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.
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 has said that the 2007 HBO series, Addiction, was inspired by her son's struggles with substance abuse.
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."