Nina Seavey

Nina Seavey
Research Professor of History and Media and Public Affairs
MPA 519
[email protected]
The Documentary Center

Areas of Expertise

Documentary Filmmaking and Critical Analysis, Trends in the production and exhibition of non-fiction films

Nina Gilden Seavey is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and a nearly 30-year veteran of the documentary world. Her films can be seen in theaters, on television, in ancillary media, and in museum exhibitions across the globe.

Some of her films 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, and 4th & GOAL. Her most recently completed film is Parables of War and she is currently in production on My Fugitive.

Seavey is the director of The Documentary Center in the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University, which she founded in 1990. She concurrently serves as the Co-Director of the Center for Innovative Media. She holds the academic rank of full Research Professor of History and Media and Public Affairs with appointments both in the Department of History and in the School of Media and Public Affairs in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at GW.

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.

Seavey’s films have appeared in domestic and international festivals and 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, The Italian National Olympic Cup for Best Sports Film, among many others.

In addition to awards for her films, Seavey has received a number of professional accolades including being named one of the top 50 professors of journalism in the U.S. Further, she was named a “Woman of Vision” by Women in Film and Video. And she received a commendation for “Outstanding Service to the Industry” by Discovery Communications.

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 John Heinz Family Foundation, The Anthony Radziwill Documentary Fund of the IFP, and the Southern Humanities Media Fund. Seavey was the 2006 Woman of Vision for Women in Film and Television in Washington, D.C.

Prior to becoming a filmmaker, 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.

Seavey earned her BA in History and French Literature from Washington University in St. Louis and an MA in History, with an emphasis on late 19th Century American social history, from George Washington University.


B.A. Washington University in St. Louis, 1978, History and French Literature
M.A. George Washington University, 1991, American History



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



“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.

Classes Taught

SMPA 1000, Documentary Film: Fact, Fiction or Propaganda (Dean's Seminar)
SMPA 3479, Documentary: Art and Genre
SMPA 6230, Principles and Methods of Documentary Filmmaking
SMPA 6231, Documentary Film Production