Obamas Make Key Hire for Netflix Production Company (Exclusive)

Priya Swaminathan, a veteran entertainment executive and activist, will work closely with the former president and Michelle Obama on new Hollywood projects.
Theo Wargo/WireImage; Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Barack and Michelle Obama are starting to fill out their highly anticipated Netflix production company.

Priya Swaminathan, a seasoned entertainment executive with a background in documentaries and social activism, has been hired to work at the Los Angeles-based production company of the former president and first lady, according to sources. She will team with the Obamas on developing new Hollywood projects via their previously announced Netflix deal.

Swaminathan is a filmmaker and the former director of development at Annapurna Pictures, the production-finance company founded and run by Oracle heiress Megan Ellison. Swaminathan produced and co-directed Very Young Girls, a 2007 documentary on New York's teenage prostitutes that aired on Showtime, and she formerly worked for Dickhouse Productions, the production company of Jackass star Johnny Knoxville and partner Jeff Tremaine. Swaminathan has served as an industry advisor for the Sundance Institute's FilmTwo Initiative to encourage minority filmmakers. She's also been involved more recently in the Time's Up Initiative to combat sexual harassment, as well as Democratic politics and other areas of social activism. 

Netflix and a rep for the Obamas declined to comment on the hire. It’s unclear what Swaminathan’s title will be, and the company is said to be hiring additional people.

Netflix announced in May that it has signed the Obamas to a multiple-year deal to produce films and TV series. While details remain mum on the nature of content the Obamas are looking to create, the announcement previewed that it would include a mix of scripted and unscripted series, docuseries/documentaries and features under their Higher Ground Productions banner. 

The Netflix deal was the first big move for the Obamas after exiting the White House last year. The couple also has a $65 million deal with Penguin Random House to publish individual books.

The partnership marked the latest "get" for Netflix, which has poached top TV producers including Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes from their longtime homes at 20th Century Fox TV and ABC Studios, respectively.