Sheila Nevins Is Launching MTV’s Documentary Films Unit

MTV has pulled off a major coup: the company landed Sheila Nevins to launch their Documentary Films banner. Variety confirmed the news.

The HBO alumna is set to “lead the charge on developing a broad slate of documentary features, specials, and series designed to inspire young adults to take action on pressing social issues,” according to the source. She’ll “build a team to produce programming for MTV and affiliated Viacom outlets as well as for outside buyers,” and she plans to “put a big emphasis on scouting for rising stars in the docu world and filmmakers from non-traditional backgrounds.”

Nevins stepped down as head of HBO Doc Films in 2017. Her decades-long tenure at the premium cable network saw her bringing in dozens of Oscars, including a statuette for Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s short “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.” As an executive producer or producer, she has received 30-plus Primetime Emmy Awards, 30-plus News and Documentary Emmys, and 40-plus George Foster Peabody Awards.

“The whole purpose here is to energize the large population of young people that MTV embraces,” Nevins said. “The world is in a sorry state. We need to energize people in some way to make regular people feel that they can make a difference.”

Nevins is reportedly “approaching MTV productions with the goal of tackling narratives in a different way than she and documentarians have in the past, especially when it comes to unpacking complicated social issues.”

“There’s an elitism to many documentaries that are already talking to the converted,” Nevins explained. “I think it’s time to stop that. Part of the attraction of this job to me is to reach the regular folks out there. I see this as an enormous opportunity.”

While MTV’s docs won’t be exclusively intended for younger viewers, Nevins said she is “fascinated by this audience. It’s there and waiting,” she observed. “They’re energized, and they are the future. I’d like to bring something to them that is not their normal cup of tea — or glass of beer, if you will.”

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