What's up, doc?

For Sheila Nevins, documenting life spells success at HBO

Even if her name doesn't get pulled from an envelope, Sunday is going to be a good night for HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins. Not only is she nominated for four Primetime Emmys -- three for "The Alzheimer's Project" and another for "Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery" -- she will also be the recipient of the TV Academy's prestigious Governors Award, saluting an individual, company or organization that has made a substantial impact on television.

"All you need to do is scan down the oeuvre that she has created over the past years and you'll see subject matters ranging from poverty to education to health care to diplomacy," says HBO co-president Richard Plepler. "And in each case, she has found a unique way to tell that story. I think she has made the documentary not only more accessible to mainstream audiences and shown that it needn't be a kind of eating-your-peas experience."

Nevins had her mind set on a career in show business from an early age. She studied dance at Manhattan's High School of the Performing Arts, and went on to earn a bachelor's degree in English at Barnard College and a master's degree in directing at Yale University's School of Drama. She began her career with the U.S. Information Agency's Television Film Service in Washington and later worked as a producer and/or writer for PBS' "The Great Dream Machine," ABC's "The Reasoner Report," Time-Life Films, the Children's Television Workshop, and the CBS show "Who's Who" before joining HBO in 1979 as director of documentary programming.

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In the past 21 years alone, Nevins has personally garnered 54 Emmy nominations and 22 wins, most recently for "White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki" and "Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" in 2007.

Nevins sees herself as a seed that has been planted and nurtured by HBO.

"If the ground at HBO hadn't been fertile, if it hadn't been watered properly by the people around me, I don't think I would've flourished," Nevins says. "I would've been selling bras in Bloomingdales."