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THR's Women in Entertainment 2011: Power 100

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    39. Sheila Nevins
    Sheila Nevins
    President, HBO Documentary Films*

    Nevins has had a bang-up year. In October, the documentary vet was honored by the Directors Guild of America. Just one month earlier, she beat out her "buddy" James L. Brooks for the most Primetime Emmys won by an individual (54). But perhaps her proudest moment in 2011, both professionally and personally, came on Aug. 19, when, after 18 years and three HBO films, the imprisoned West Memphis Three, wrongly convicted for a 1993 triple murder in Arkansas, reentered society as free men. "Nothing has been more gratifying than getting those kids off because they didn't do it," says the married mother of a grown son.

    PHOTOS: THR's 2011 Women in Entertainment Power 100

    Nevins funded and supported the Paradise Lost docs after reading about the case in a newspaper. "It's one thing to think something, it's another to know," she says. "So it was impossible to let it go. It's like being an accessory to the crime." It was also a rare moment of immersion for Nevins, who, since joining HBO in 1979 ("I didn't know what cable was, I thought it was dirty shows, local access," she says with a laugh) has made a name for herself and the network with racy, voyeuristic programs like Real Sex and Taxicab Confessions along with more serious, award-winning fare such as Ghosts of Abu Ghraib and Bobby Fischer Against the World.

    Ultimately, asserts the lifelong New Yorker, she can find a documentary in anybody. "When pushed against a wall and trusting, everybody has a great story," she says. But unlike reality TV (episodes of Intervention, Hoarders and Real Housewives of New Jersey can be found on Nevins' DVR), "it's not always one you can capture for television," she adds. "I think everybody is a freak, but reality has converted that freakdom into a kind of artificial but pleasant aura of unreality. In documentaries, you still retain a certain honesty, sadness and truth about the human condition."

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