April 30, 2019
Higher Ground Productions, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company in partnership with Netflix, announced its initial slate of upcoming projects, encompassing fiction and non-fiction productions; scripted, unscripted and documentary series; and full-length features and documentaries.
Priya Swaminathan and Tonia Davis are co-heads of the company.
The documentary American Factory, from Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, will be the first release on the slate. Acquired by Netflix in association with Higher Ground Productions out of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Directing Award: U.S. Documentary, the Participant Media film takes a deep dive into a post-industrial Ohio, where a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant and hires 2,000 blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America.
“Bloom” is an upstairs/downstairs drama series set in the world of fashion in post-World War II New York City that depicts barriers faced by women and people of color in an era marked by hurdles but also tremendous progress.
Higher Ground is producing a feature film adaptation of author David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, for which he won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in history.
The company is adapting a scripted anthology series from The New York Times’ ongoing obituary column “Overlooked,” telling the stories of remarkable people whose deaths were not reported by the newspaper.
“Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents” will be a half-hour preschool series from creators Jeremy Konner (“Drunk History”) and Erika Thormahlen. The show travel around the globe to tell the story of our food.
From Michael Lewis, the best-selling author of The Big Short and Moneyball, and based on his book The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy, the non-fiction series “Fifth Risk” will aim to portray the importance of unheralded work done by everyday heroes guiding our government and safeguarding our nation.
Crip Camp is a feature-length documentary film in production that is supported by the Sundance Institute and acquired earlier this year by Higher Ground and Netflix. Just down the road from Woodstock, in the early 1970s, a parallel revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers that would transform young lives and America forever by helping to set in motion the disability rights movement. The film is directed by former camper Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham.
The Obamas launched Higher Ground last spring.
“We created Higher Ground to harness the power of storytelling. That’s why we couldn’t be more excited about these projects,” President Obama said in a statement. “Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights, and much more, we believe each of these productions won’t just entertain, but will educate, connect, and inspire us all.”
“We love this slate because it spans so many different interests and experiences, yet it’s all woven together with stories that are relevant to our daily lives,” Michelle Obama said in a statement. “We think there’s something here for everyone — moms and dads, curious kids, and anyone simply looking for an engaging, uplifting watch at the end of a busy day. We can’t wait to see these projects come to life — and the conversations they’ll generate.”
“President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and the Higher Ground team are building a company focused on storytelling that exemplifies their core values,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix. “The breadth of their initial slate across series, film, documentary and family programming shows their commitment to diverse creators and unique voices that will resonate with our members around the world.”