Barack & Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Appoints Co-Heads


Barack and Michelle Obama have put in place the executive team for Higher Ground Productions, with Priya Swaminathan and Tonia Davis serving as co-heads of the company.

Swaminathan most recently worked at Annapurna, where she oversaw the studio’s film development slate while also engaging across their TV, gaming and interactive departments to enhance crossover potential for each division of the company. She has developed and produced fiction and documentary projects for a range of filmmakers, including Spike Jonze, Bennett Miller and George Clooney.

Davis is formerly of Chernin Entertainment, where she oversaw development and shepherded productions for the company’s film and TV projects. At Chernin, she served as an executive producer on the comedy Snatched, starring Amy Schumer, and 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 a slate of live-action feature films including The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast.

Swaminathan and Davis are joined by Qadriyyah “Q” Shamsid-Deen, who serves as a creative executive for the company. Shamsid-Deen joins Higher Ground Productions from Ryan Murphy Television’s Half Initiative, where she served as a program director.

Last year, it was announced that Higher Ground has entered into a multiyear agreement to produce films and series with Netflix.

“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,” said Barack Obama. “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.”

“Our goal isn’t just to make people think—we want to make people feel and reach outside of their comfort zone,” Michelle Obama added. “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.”