Hollywood 2019: Obamas’ Higher Grounds Productions

The Obamas have appointed two women as their executive team to head their Higher Grounds Productions.

Priya Swaminathan, former director of development at Annapurna, and Tonia Davis, who oversaw development for TV and film productions at Chernin Entertainment, were appointed as co-heads of the Obamas’ production venture.

Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama signed a content development pact with Netflix last year.

The Higher Grounds team is putting together the company’s slate of projects, after signing a multi-year agreement with Netflix last year, and we can expect to hear more information soon about the initial project line-up.

Swaminathan and Davis will be joined by Qadriyyah “Q” Shamsid-Deen who serves as a creative executive for the company.

The Obamas are serious about building the company and moving forward with production.

The deal between Higher Grounds and Netflix includes developing all types of content, from scripted and unscripted series, to docu-series, documentary films, and features.

“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. “With their thoughtfulness, creativity and empathy, we know that Priya, Tonia and Q will find the common thread within every story to inspire us to be something more. I’m thrilled about this team as professionals—and as people. They’re wonderful.”

At Annapurna, Swaminathan oversaw the film development slate and developed and produced fiction and documentary projects for Spike Jonze, Bennett Miller and George Clooney. In addition to producing Showtime’s “Very Young Girls,” Swaminathan has also produced documentaries for MTV and ESPN.

At Chernin, Davis served as an exec producer on the Amy Schumer comedy “Snatched,” as well as on the original musical “The Greatest Showman” starring Hugh Jackman. Davis previously worked for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, where she played a key role in the production of their recent live action feature remakes including “The Jungle Book” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

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