Obamas’ Production Company Hires Industry Veterans For Original Netflix Programming ‘That Empowers’

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Written by Dana Sanchez
President Barack Obama talks with World War II veteran Harkless Hutchings, 95, at Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus, Ohio, as he arrives for a campaign stop in Columbus Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Barack and Michelle Obama are getting into original content programming, and their new entertainment company, Higher Ground Productions, is putting together an executive team of veterans.

The former first couple’s company will produce projects that empower “new and diverse voices,” CNBC reported.

The Obamas announced in May 2018 that they had formed a production company in partnership with Netflix to produce films, documentaries, docuseries, scripted series and unscripted series.


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“The Obamas may have just chosen the team behind your next favorite Netflix show,” The Observer reported.

The co-heads of Higher Ground are Priya Swaminathan, a former director of development at Annapurna, and Tonia Davis, who oversaw development for TV and film productions at Chernin Entertainment. The new creative executive is Qadriyyah “Q” Shamsid-Deen, who worked at the Ryan Murphy Television Half Initiative, where she served as a program director.

“With Higher Ground Productions, we hope to bring people together around common values and uncommon stories—and Priya, Tonia and Q are precisely the people to bring that vision to life,” Obama said in a statement. “They’re masterful storytellers. They’re veterans in the industry. And they not only bring their unique perspectives and life experiences to every project, but they’re committed to finding new voices who have their own stories to tell. Michelle and I couldn’t be more excited about the team we’re assembling.”

The Higher Ground heads “represent the first sign the Obamas are serious about building the company and moving forward with production,” Will Thorne wrote for Variety.

Both Swaminathan and Davis have been working with Higher Ground for a while now, according to The Observer. Swaminathan produced and co-directed “Very Young Girls,” a documentary about underage prostitutes in New York City, as well as ESPN’s “30 for 30” series. Davis was with Disney before joining Chernin and scored producing credits on Amy Schumer’s “Snatched”, Hugh Jackman’s box-office hit “The Greatest Showman” and Kristen Stewart’s upcoming thriller “Underwater”.

“Our goal isn’t just to make people think—we want to make people feel and reach outside of their comfort zone,” Michelle Obama said. “Priya, Tonia and Q will find the common thread within every story to inspire us to be something more.”