Netflix, Higher Ground Partners Barack & Michelle Obama Expand Film & TV Creative Collaboration

EXCLUSIVE: Higher Ground, the media company started by President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, has extended its creative partnership with Netflix. As part of the deal, Higher Ground will have a multiyear first-look deal with Netflix for all of its film and TV projects.

The relationship has been a fruitful one so far, as Higher Ground has become one of Netflix’s top suppliers of tastemaker film and TV projects. This comes on the heels of Netflix revealing that the Higher Ground film Leave the World Behind with Mahershala Ali and Julia Roberts topped all of Netflix viewing in the second half of 2023 and that Bodkin, the Will Forte crime drama series, debuted on Netflix’s Top 10 weekly global list.

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Higher Ground’s recent projects with Netflix include RustinAmerican SymphonyLeave the World BehindWorking: What We Do All Day and BodkinRustin, a feature film that tells the story of civil rights and gay rights activist Bayard Rustin, earned Oscar, BAFTA and SAG award nominations for Colman Domingo’s performance. American Symphony was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a BAFTA Award for Best Documentary. Higher Ground’s apocalyptic thriller directed by Sam Esmail, Leave the World Behind, climbed to the fifth spot on Netflix’s Most Popular Films List of all time, with 121 million views in just over three weeks after its premiere. Despite debuting late in the year, the film topped all Netflix viewing in the second half of 2023. Most recently, Higher Ground’s Will Forte crime drama series, Bodkin, spent three weeks on the Netflix global Top 10 list.

This followed the Oscar-nominated Crip Camp, the Emmy Award-winning Our Great National Parks, as well as FatherhoodBecomingWorthWe the PeopleDescendant, plus the hit kids and family series Waffles + Mochi and Ada Twist, Scientist. Higher Ground kicked off its label at Netflix with American Factory, the film that won the 2019 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program.

Higher Ground has much more coming: The company acquired rights to S.A. Cosby’s bestselling crime thriller All the Sinners Bleed, which it is developing with Amblin Entertainment; Hello, Beautiful, a family drama by Ann Napolitano that was an Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club pick; and Dyersvillea highly sought after Chicago-set crime thriller inspired by real life events, directed by Grant Singer. There is also a film adaptation of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography by David W. Blight. Regina King is set to direct, with a script by Kemp Powers. The pair teamed on One Night in Miami.

Michelle Obama is working with Lupita Nyong’o on a romantic comedy film titled Fling, produced by and starring Nyong’o and based on a novel by J.F. Murray.

Higher Ground is in production on an unscripted series about older people finding companionship, The Later Daters, which the company is producing alongside Boardwalk Pictures, and features Harvard-trained behavioral scientist Logan Ury, who will serve as an on-air expert. Higher Ground is also partnered with Words and Pictures, the team behind The Last Dance, and the International Olympic Committee on a documentary series following the Olympic Basketball Tournament in Paris later this year.

“From the beginning, Netflix has championed our projects, helping them flourish and reach millions across the world,” said Higher Ground president Vinnie Malhotra. “We’re thrilled to build on our stellar creative partnership and to deliver more ambitious films and series. From gripping thrillers to heartfelt comedies and profound documentaries, we have so much that we look forward to sharing.”

Said Netflix chief content officer Bela Bajaria: “If there’s one thing that’s defined President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s creative ambitions since we started our partnership with Higher Ground, it is their pursuit of an exceptional story that brings the human experience to light. We are delighted to continue our relationship with Higher Ground as they continue to develop and produce more ambitious, compelling and entertaining stories.”

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