Sheila Nevins has explored the human condition in the thousand or so documentaries she produced for HBO. From more than 30 years of telling us stories about ourselves, to her experience as a woman in the workplace, Sheila has plenty to say about communicating. And she never holds back. In this delightful episode, Alan Alda talks with Sheila about her life, how she feels about aging, the #MeToo movement, sex, divorce, documentaries, storytelling, and just about everything else! This episode is sponsored by Calm. Check out www.calm.com/alda for more details.
She makes an interesting point about humility that people with power (and especially within the entertainment industry) should be aware of and work to improve.
Most shocking was the story she tells about her me too moment and how she viewed it. Definitely a perspective I wouldn’t have expected.
Her perspective about looking at individuals as a way into human problems and making documentaries is similar to a philosophy I remember hearing from Masha Gessen in an interview that Jeffrey Goldberg did with her. The upshot is that, especially for righting wrongs and general atrocities, focusing a story on a particular individual has a lot more power than focusing on the nameless and faceless masses. Sheila’s example of the Holocaust survivor is a particular apt one. (As I think about it Masha would be a great interview for this podcast.)
In fact, I recently watched an immigration related documentary on Frontline and while I didn’t personally find the lead woman very relate-able or sympathetic, I was still pissed off at the process because her individual story was still so powerful.
This general ideal also reminds me of the gut-punch scene at the end of the film A Time To Kill (1996) [spoiler alert] which ends with the command to the jury “Now imagine she’s white.”