Nina Seavey

Areas of Expertise

Documentary production and critical analysis.  Trends in the production, exhibition, and distribution of non-fiction film and digital media. 

Nina Gilden Seavey is an Emmy Award-winning documentarian with a 30-year career in the non-fiction world.  Her media projects can be seen in theaters, on television, in digital and ancillary media, and in museum exhibitions across the globe. 

Seavey served the Founding Director of The Documentary Center in the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University from 1990-2020.  She concurrently served as the Co-Director of the Center for Innovative Media.  She currently holds the academic rank of Research Professor of History and Media and Public Affairs with appointments in both the Department of History and in the School of Media and Public Affairs in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. In addition to her academic appointment at GW, Seavey was a Visiting Research Scholar at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University from 2017-2019. She is the President of Seavey Media (seaveymedia.com). 

Seavey most recent production is an 8-part podcast, My Fugitive, produced by Pineapple Street Studios. Her previous works include: A Paralyzing Fear: The Story of Polio in America, The Ballad of Bering Strait, The Matador, A Short History of Sweet Potato Pie and How It Became a Flying Saucer, The War at Home, 4th and Goal, and Parables of War.

In 2002, Seavey became the Founding Director of SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival (now AFI Docs). She continued with the festival as Executive Producer, strand programmer, and senior member of the management team until 2009. Under her stewardship, the festival became the largest documentary festival in the US. 

Seavey’s works have won numerous awards including five National Emmy nominations (one statue awarded), the Erik Barnouw Prize for Best Historical Film of the Year, The Golden Hugo, Cine Special Jury Prize, The Telly Award, The Italian National Olympic Cup for Best Sports Film, The Peter C Rollins Prize for Best Film in American Culture, among many others.

Seavey has received many professional accolades including being named one of the top 50 professors of journalism in the U.S. in 2012. In 2004 she received a commendation for “Outstanding Service to the Industry” by Discovery Communications, and in 2006 she was named a “Woman of Vision” by Women in Film and Video.

Seavey regularly serves as panelist and advisor to many projects including efforts on behalf of the International Documentary Association, the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, The John Heinz Family Foundation, the Independent Feature Project (IFP), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Southern Humanities Media Fund.

Prior to becoming a non-fiction storyteller, Seavey had a career in politics from 1972 until 1980. She served on the Missouri campaign staff for the presidential campaigns of George McGovern and Morris Udall and for the senatorial campaign for Thomas Eagleton (D-MO). Seavey moved to Washington and served as foreign and military policy advisor to Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder (D-CO) and in 1979 became a political appointee in the Office of the Secretary of Defense during the Carter Administration.

Education

B.A. Washington University in St. Louis, 1978, History and French Literature

M.S. George Washington University, 1991, American History. 

Publications

FILMS

My Fugitive

Parables of War

The War at Home

4th & GOAL

The Matador

A Short History of Sweet Potato Pie and How it Became a Flying Saucer

The Open Road: America Looks at Aging

The Ballad of Bering Strait

A Paralyzing Fear: The Story of Polio in America

PUBLICATIONS

Books

“Surveillance and Subversion of Student Activists 1967-1970: Showdown in St. Louis,” in Left in the Midwest, University of Missouri Press, forthcoming Fall 2021

“The Promise,” Minerva Rising, Issue 19, Fall, 2020.

“Founding SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Film Festival” in So You Wanna Start a Film Festival. Jon Gann. (2016). ReelPlan Press. 

“Mentoring the Next Generation of Filmmakers” in The Documentary Film Maker’s Handbook. Genevieve Jolliffe and Andrew Zinnes, Eds. (2006). Continuum Books.

A Paralyzing Fear: The Triumph Over Polio in America. Nina Gilden Seavey, Jane Smith, and  Paul Wagner. (1998). TV Books. Companion book to the film A Paralyzing Fear.

“Historians and Film: Taking History Off the Page and Putting It On the Screen” in Public History, 2nd Edition. (2004). Krieger Press

Additional Publications

Momma Doc: The Filmmaker as Homemaker.” (Feb/March 2005). International Documentary Magazine.

"25 Years at COMSAT: An Oral History of the Communications Satellite Corporation." (1987). National Air and Space Museum Press.