When Barack and Michelle Obama left the White House, it was assumed that they would write memoirs and reap the financial benefits of their years in public service. That’s the traditional way for former presidents and first ladies to transition from public life back to private life. The Obamas aren’t much for tradition, though, and when they left the White House they were able to sign a sweet deal with Netflix worth tens of millions of dollars.
The bottom line for their Netflix deal is probably more than that when all is said and done, but the details were not released when the deal was signed. The production company they started is called Higher Ground Productions. During the 92nd Oscars which aired on Sunday night, the first Obama-backed documentary won an Oscar for Best Documentary.
Here’s the kicker to that little story – when the filmmakers accepted their award, Julia Reichert quoted Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto when describing her perfect world. Even for the far-left in Hollywood, that little shout-out was jarring. She is literally reaping the rewards of capitalism while giving a nod to her communist aspirations. It cannot be stated strongly enough how out of touch and naive these people are.
The winner of the documentary category was American Factory, an Obama-backed Netflix documentary which is “set in an abandoned General Motors plant in Ohio that reopens when Chinese billionaire chairman Cao Dewang buys it and turns it into windshield factory Fuyao Glass America.” This is the first documentary that the Obamas have funded.
When accepting the award the filmmakers said the communist mantra, “Working people have it harder and harder these days – and we believe that things will get better when workers of the world unite.”
Given the Democrat field running for the presidential nomination, I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Socialism, communism, whatever. A statement like “Workers of the world unite!” was completely acceptable to the Oscars crowd, as I wrote about for Newsbusters. Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar were delivering the party line. While last year’s ceremony was not very political, this year made up for it. It’s a presidential election year, you know.
The Obamas came on board the film as executive producers after it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last year, making it the first title in their multi-year deal with Netflix. American Factory focuses on the effort of Fuyao, a Chinese auto glass maker, to set up a factory on the footprint of an old GM plant outside the filmmakers’ home base of Dayton, Ohio. The venture triggered controversy, because Fuyao employees were discouraged from joining a union and they earned less than half the hourly wage that had been paid by GM. The film has been praised as a nuanced look at the cross cultural and economic challenges faced by both management and employees as they tried to make a success of Fuyao Glass America.
The Obamas congratulated the documentary makers on Twitter. Note that Barack Obama mentions “the very human consequences of wrenching economic change. ” Oh, like a shift from capitalism to socialism and then communism? You can’t make this stuff up.
Congrats to Julia and Steven, the filmmakers behind American Factory, for telling such a complex, moving story about the very human consequences of wrenching economic change. Glad to see two talented and downright good people take home the Oscar for Higher Ground’s first release. https://t.co/W4AZ68iWoY
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 10, 2020
Congrats to Julia, Steven, and the whole crew on winning Best Documentary for #AmericanFactory, Higher Ground's first release! So glad to see their heart and honesty recognized—because the best stories are rarely tidy or perfect. But that’s where the truth so often lies. https://t.co/qtdNEw9H3f
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) February 10, 2020
There was an interesting story published before Oscars night about former Obama speechwriters writing the acceptance speeches of woke Hollywood actors. I find the story perfectly logical. The Hollywood left always go political in their awards acceptance speeches when a Republican is in office. Obama’s administration ran on “fundamental” change and the Oscars audience is a large one. Why not weave some Democrat talking points into a few thank-yous?
Fenway Strategies is a speechwriting and communications firm founded by former Obama administration officials Jon Favreau and Tommy Vietor. Although the firm’s most obvious connection is to the political arena, helping speakers prep TED talks or United Nations addresses, Fenway has branched out into Hollywood. And over the last few years the firm has helped ghostwrite awards acceptance speeches for a number of A-list clients; you definitely know them but their identities are protected by non-disclosure agreements.
To hear it from Fenway principal Sam Koppelman, a former speechwriter for Michael Bloomberg and digital strategist for Hillary Clinton who also co-authored the New York Times best seller Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump, the practice is so widespread among movie, music, and TV stars nowadays, he finds it more astonishing to discover a nominee has eschewed professional speechwriting help than when one seeks it out.
“Writing for actors is a speechwriter’s dream come true,” says Koppelman. “Because unlike politicians, who are not professionals at memorizing lines or delivering them in compelling and charismatic ways, actors actually know how to deliver the lines.”
The very first award went to Brad Pitt for Best Supporting Actor. He started his speech by saying, “They told me I only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the senate gave John Bolton this week. I’m thinking maybe Quentin does a movie about it. In the end the adults do the right thing.” Excuse me if I am skeptical that Pitt is clever enough to come up with that one on his own. When asked if someone else wrote his remarks, he denied it. Actors make a living reciting words that others have written for them. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to believe that professional political speechwriters want to get in on the action, too.