Sheila Nevins Declares She's "Too Energetic and Ambitious to Retire"

Matt Furman
Sheila Nevins

The outgoing president of HBO documentary films mused about what she'd do next and talked about the #MeToo and Time's Up movements.

After announcing in December that she was leaving her position as president of HBO documentary films, a division she's overseen since 1979, Sheila Nevins is set to officially depart at the end of March.

So what's next for the woman who's overseen the production of 1,000 documentaries, with HBO winning 26 Oscars on her watch, and won 32 Primetime Emmy Awards along with numerous other accolades?

“I don’t really know,” Nevins wondered aloud during a talk Wednesday at the first-ever Australian Screen Forum at New York's Lincoln Center. “I’m too energetic and ambitious to retire! I hate that word more than any other word.”

While she won’t be turning poolside lounging into her day job, Nevins is celebrating simply by being proud.

“I’m enjoying selling myself. I think I’m pretty terrific!” she beamed. 

Even if she tried, Nevins' desire to find films about "ordinary people" is too strong to fade away. She couldn't even get through the talk without leaning forward and asking an audience member "Do you have a documentary in mind? Bet you do. What's your documentary?"

And, indeed, in revealing her plan to leave HBO, The New York Times reported Nevins would be taking "several projects" with her, to finish at home and was considering doing a SiriusXM radio show and another book.

Whatever's next for Nevins, she's embarking on her future without fear, casually proclaiming earlier in the talk that she's "not afraid of anything." She claimed she only got her initial job as head of the cable network's documentary division because no one else would do it.

“No man in his right mind would’ve worked for my starting salary,” she remarked.

When she did work with men, they weren’t always angels. Nevins has been vocal about workplace harassment and didn’t hesitate to tell the small audience at Lincoln Center about the time a co-worker bit her neck in the editing bay. Her response: “If you keep biting my neck, I’m going to have to get a rabies shot.”

Even with her sharp tongue, Nevins wishes women in entertainment knew how to push back then, the way they do today. For her, the #MeToo and Time's Up movements are “necessary” but not without flaw.

“It’s a little haywire right now, but I think it was necessary for the next step,” she explained. “Every revolution, there’s a lot of people who fall by the wayside of the revolution who maybe shouldn’t have been shot at.”

“Those of you who are young are lucky because we went before,” she said before dryly adding, “Want to see the scars on the back of my neck?"

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