Variety has recently reported that The Obamas have started a new venture and put together an executive team to head their Higher Ground Productions company. According to a statement, the Higher Grounds team — newly appointed Priya Swaminathan, Tonia Davis, and Qadriyyah “Q” Shamsid-Deen– is putting together a list of the company’s upcoming projects, after the Obama’s signed a multi-year content development agreement with Netflix last year.
Swaminathan has experience overseeing production at Annapura Films, and helped develop fictional and documentary projects for filmmakers including Spike Jonze and George Clooney. She has also produced documentaries for MTV and ESPN.
While Davis, served as an exec producer at the Cherin Company and produced the Amy Schumer/Goldie Hawn led comedy Snatched, as well as the celebrity packed musical vehicle, The Greatest Showman. She also previously worked for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, where she played a key role in the production of the remakes of The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast.
“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,” President Obama said. “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.”
Shamsid-Deen rounds out the team after a long reign in Ryan Murphy Television’s Half Initiative; a program aimed at encouraging more female voices in the film industry. The producer has also worked on television shows ranging from American Horror Story, 9-1-1, Criminal Minds, American Crime Story, and Pose.
Swaminathan and Davis have been appointed as co-heads, while Shamsid-Deen will serve as creative executive for the company, respectively. The initial statement announcing the multiyear deal between Higher Grounds and Netflix has been reported to include content of all kinds ranging from scripted and unscripted series, 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.”