Focus Features Has Dawn Porter Documentary In The Works About White House Photographer Pete Souza

Paul Souza documentary
President Barack Obama walks along the West Colonnade of the White House with Chief White House Photographer Pete Souza. Feb. 18, 2016. Lawrence Jackson / The White House

Focus Features is producing a new documentary from Dawn Porter about former Chief Official White House Photographer Pete Souza.

As Chief Official White House Photographer, Pete Souza had a first person point of view and unprecedented access to the intimate behind-the-scenes gravitas of POTUS, photographing Presidents Obama and Reagan.  It was a job that gave the photographer a unique vantage point on the nation’s political landscapes.  The doc will track Souza’s journey as a person with top secret clearance and total access to the President to a person who has turned his focus on the present day and who uses his art as commentary to help us understand where we the country’s pulse is what it might be missing. His past published works of photographs, Obama: An Intimate Portraitand Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents both debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller lists.  He is a professor emeritus at Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication and was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism in 2001 as part of the Chicago Tribune staff. 

Porter is a Sundance Special Jury Prize and Peabody Award-winning director whose credits include Gideon’s Army, Bobby Kennedy for President, and the upcoming film Good Trouble about Congressman John Lewis. She will also produce the Souza doc. Oscar, BAFTA and Emmy Award winning producer Evan Hayes (Free Solo) will produce under his ACE Content banner alongside Oscar-nominee and Emmy Award-winner Laura Dern and her Jaywalker Pictures partner Jayme Lemons, in association with Platform One Media.

 “For eight years during the Obama presidency, I was inside the room where it happened. My job was to visually document his Presidency, making more than 1.9 million photographs for the historical record. But I also strived to capture the fleeting moments of President Obama’s life to show what he was like as a human being,” said Peter Souza. “On January 20, 2017, I left the White House and resumed my most important role in life–citizen. And it’s as citizen that I have chosen to speak out, using my photographs as commentary of where we were and how that contrasts with where we are today.”

Filmmaker Dawn Porter said, “Pete Souza is the voice we need now.  His unprecedented access to the office of the President is a sober reflection on the importance of American leadership.  I’ve spent my career highlighting heroic voices, and I could not be more thrilled to be working with Evan, Laura, Jayme and Focus Features to tell Pete’s heroic story. Their commitment to this story reflects a dedication to honor as well as art and I am so grateful to be working with this team.”

Producer Evan Hayes commented, “As an Official White House Photographer, Pete Souza has had unrivaled access to two Presidents from two different political parties, and his observations about the Office of the Presidency have resonated with me and millions of others in powerful & unexpected ways.  I’m thrilled to partner with Dawn Porter & Focus, and also my very good friends Laura & Jayme, to bring Pete’s story, and his photography, to life.”

Producers Dern and Lemons said, “Pete Souza is an American treasure. Jayme and I couldn’t be more excited to partner with Evan Hayes, along with the brilliant team at Focus Features, to bring to the screen his remarkable story, images, and expression of empathy and compassion through his indelible work chronicling two presidents.”

 Focus will release the pic at the domestic B.O. with Universal handling overseas. Focus’ 2018 feature doc Won’t You Be My Neighbor was a summer standout at the specialty box office last year grossing $22.8M, leading a wave of feature docs that popped at the arthouse circuit.

ICM Partners, who reps Porter, negotiated the deal.

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