HBO documentary producer Sheila Nevins is all about the truth

Legendary producer Sheila Nevins

HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins is considered one of the most influential people in her field. The award-winning filmmaker has overseen more than 1,000 documentaries for HBO including "The Jinx", "Jim: The James Foley Story" and "When the Levees Broke."

The films have touched on subjects ranging from war to child beauty pageants, Scientology and Alzheimer's. Her productions have won 26 Academy Awards.

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After being behind the camera for more than three decades, Nevins has now published a collection of short stories, essays and poetry called "You Don't Look Your Age…And Other Fairy Tales."

Nevins joined "CBS This Morning" Wednesday to discuss her career and the truth about getting old.

One of the chapters in Nevins' book, "Gliding Gracefully into Gravity," explores the difficulties of getting older and her decision to have plastic surgery. 


"It's harder for women than men. I didn't want to walk into a room and look like somebody's grandmother. I submitted to the culture that told me young was in," Nevins said.  

The producer has no qualms discussing why she doesn't look her age. 

"Because women have to lie about how old they are. They have to pretend. That's why we do all the horrible things we do to ourselves. We submit to surgery and I'm a victim and a victor simultaneously. I mean, I can fool you. Do I look my age? Of course not, how could I?" Nevins said. 

Over her years in the business, what has she learned about the secret to a good documentary? 

"I think that the people say something they might not have said to someone else," Nevins observed. "There's a secret inside everybody" but it takes sincere interest to get at that secret. 

Nevins explained that instead of focusing on history as inspiration for a documentary, she would take cues from popular movies at the time.

"So, I stole from movies," Nevins said. "If 'Jaws' was doing well I did a documentary about sharks."

Another chapter of Nevins book centers on her mother, who was an amputee. Nevins writes of the regret she felt about being embarrassed after a woman asked her mother to "put that arm away" while the two were eating at a restaurant.

"I don't want to be embarrassed ever again for saying what's real. I mean, I'm not embarrassed about truth. I'm really not." Nevins said.

For the legendary producer, being truthful about aging is at the core of her book's message. 

 "It is — it just is. There's less ahead than behind. Have you used the behind well enough?" Nevins asked.

"It's precious to be here. It's precious to tell the truth. It's precious to have someone come over to you and say 'thank you for saying that old is hard.'"