President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama on Tuesday unveiled the executive team for the pair’s Higher Ground Productions, with ex-Annapurna exec Priya Swaminathan and Chernin Entertainment’s Tonia Davis named co-heads. The production company last May inked a multi-year deal with Netflix to produce films and series that have been said will focus on inspirational stories.
Swaminathan and Davis, who have been aboard already, are joined by Qadriyyah “Q” Shamsid-Deen, who has been named a creative executive.
Before joining Higher Ground, Swaminathan oversaw the film development slate at Megan Ellison’s Annapurna. Before that she developed and produced fiction and documentary projects including Showtime’s 2007 teen prostitution douc Very Young Girls and docus for ESPN’s 30 for 30 and MTV. Davis joined Chernin Entertainment from Disney in 2015 as VP Film, in charge of development and production of the company’s film and TV projects. Her executive producer credits include the Amy Schumer comedy Snatched and The Greatest Showman. She also was was an organizer in New Mexico during the 2004 presidential cycle.
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Shamsid-Deen previously was program director at Ryan Murphy Television’s Half Initiative, and before that worked with Brad Simpson and Nina Jacobson at Color Force.
“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,” Barack 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.”
Added Michelle Obama: “Our goal isn’t just to make people think—we want to make people feel and reach outside of their comfort zone. 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.”
Higher Ground has not yet revealed details about its initial slate.
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