Obamas’ Vision for Hollywood Company: ‘This Isn’t Like Masterpiece Theater’

Despite the projects ahead, Mr. Obama said the couple intended to continue spending just 10 to 15 percent of their time nurturing Higher Ground, especially as the 2024 election approaches and they are called to the campaign trail.

“Michelle and I do not aspire to be full-time Hollywood moguls,” he said.

For the projects they do choose, however, their support can make the difference. Bruce Cohen, a producer of “Rustin,” credits the Obamas with getting his film made after HBO passed on it years earlier.

“Once you have them in your corner, it gives you a really good chance,” he said.

And Mr. Heineman, whose film documents Ms. Jaouad’s battle with leukemia, was able to form a partnership with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Be the Match organization, which helps connect patients to bone marrow donors, because of Higher Ground, he said. “The idea of trying to make an impact with the film was something that was important to him and important to me,” Mr. Heineman said, referring to Mr. Obama.

While Mr. Obama was no stranger to Hollywood — since his early days of campaigning for the presidency he found a welcoming audience among the show business elite — he has found that working in this business has taken some getting used to.

“It’s ironic that the private sector is made out to be this hyper-efficient thing, and the government is plodding, slow,” he said. “I think part of it is ideological and part of it is people’s experience with the D.M.V.”

“Everything takes so long — decisions, contracts, scripts,” Mr. Obama said. “We organized a major address or a G20 meeting in three weeks. Getting somebody to read a script in three weeks is lucky, much less write a script in three weeks.”

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