Miriam Makeba

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Mini Series Budget

The budgets of true story and biography miniseries that have between four and six installments are between $9 million and $30 million. A deeper look at "Alias Grace", "Wormwood", and "Madoff" is below.


The three miniseries I identified are all historic or biographic in nature; however, "Alias Grace" is Canada-based rather than U.S.-based. I chose to use this miniseries as an example because it is very similar in theme and style as the proposed miniseries about Miriam Makeba. I also chose "Alias Grace" because Anna Paquin, who stars in the show, commands approximately $275,000 per episode on her current show "True Blood," while Kerry Washington earns $250,000 per episode for "Scandal." as these two actresses receive similar pay for their work in television series, I believe the budgets for the miniseries would also be similar.

"Wormwood" was chosen because it is U.S. based and set in a similar time period as the civil rights movement. Therefore, I felt it would require similar sets and costuming. However, I also chose "Wormwood" because its budget was about half that for "Alias Grace," so I assumed "Wormwood" is on the lower end of the budget spectrum for 6-installlment miniseries, while "Alias Grace" appears to be on the high side.

"Madoff" was selected first, because it is U.S. based and second, because it is one of the few 4-installment miniseries for which I could find a budget. As I wanted to provide a budget for both 6-installment shows and 4-installment shows to illustrate the differences in budgets, I decided to use "Madoff," even though the only aspect it has in common with a civil rights miniseries is that it is also based on a true story. The inclusion of "Madoff" allowed me to provide a range of budgets for historical or biographical miniseries and calculate an average cost per installment for planning purposes.

Alias Grace

Budget: Between $25 million and $30 million
Installments: 6

Although this miniseries was filmed in Canada, it offers a similar type of show as the planned miniseries about civil rights activist Miriam Makeba. Even though the request preferred U.S.-based series, I included "Alias Grace" because of its similarities in theme and style. For instance, as the Miriam Makeba show will be about a woman fighting for her civil rights, "Alias Grace" is about a 19th century woman who found her rights as a woman suppressed and who "either abetted the murders of her boss and his housekeeper/lover, or was sacrificed by Victorian moralists for being a little too free, a little too desirable." The miniseries stars Anna Paquin and is written and directed by Sarah Polley, who said although she's wanted to make this miniseries for more than 20 years, she "wouldn't make it unless she got the right budget [$30-million]. And she meant it."


Budget: Between $14 million and $15 million
Installments: 6

This is a U.S.-based miniseries that aired six episodes on Netflix in 2017. The miniseries follows the true story of U.S. CIA scientist Frank Olson, which puts it in the same biographical genre as the miniseries about Miriam Makeba. Olson, who was "believed to have died after being slipped LSD as part of the agency's top secret Cold War program MKUltra, which focused on mind control," may have actually been killed as part of a conspiracy to prevent him from revealing government secrets. Another similarity between "Wormwood" and the Miriam Makeba miniseries is the time period, which would suggest this budget would be appropriate for the types of sets and costumes to provide authenticity to the show. "Wormwood" stars Peter Sarsgaard as Frank Olson and is directed by Errol Morris, who is well-known for documentaries like "The Thin Blue Line" and "The Fog of War: Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara."


Budget: $9 million (estimated)
Installments: 4

Starring Richard Dreyfuss and Blythe Danner, the 2016 miniseries "Madoff" chronicles the infamous "Ponzi" scheme executed by conman Bernie Madoff. It delves into the "dynamics within Madoff’s family and the motivations and mechanics behind the massive fraud he engaged in, which cost his clients billions of dollars." Like the proposed miniseries about Miriam Makeba, "Madoff" is based on a true story and stars a relatively famous actor and actress. While it is not set in the same time period, it is a U.S.-based show. "Madoff" only has four installments, so it represents the lower end of the cost spectrum for a miniseries such as the one planned.


By examining the budgets for "Alias Grace," "Wormwood," and "Madoff," we can calculate an approximate average budget per episode, which may assist in determining a budget for the Miriam Makeba project. In total, there were 16 installments between the three miniseries (6+6+4). Using the high budget estimates for "Alias Grace" ($30 million) and "Wormwood" ($15 million), and the estimated budget for "Madoff" ($9 million), we can calculate the average cost per installment to be $3.4 million ($30 million + $15 million + $9 million = $54 million / 16 installments = $3.375 million, rounded to $3.4 million).

We can also say, then, that an average 6-installment miniseries would have an approximate budget of $20.4 million ($3.4 million x 6), while an average 5-installment miniseries would have an approximate budget of $17 million ($3.4 million x 5), and a 4-installment miniseries would have an approximate budget of $13.6 million ($3.4 million x 4).


Based on the budgets for "Alias Grace," "Wormwood," and "Madoff," the average budget per installment is about $3.4 million, meaning a 6-installment miniseries would have a budget of about $20.4 million.
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Miriam Makeba Public Awareness


Miriam Makeba, the South African singer and civil rights activist, is in the public sphere and her name frequently comes up in news articles as an example of a female African leader and artist. Both her social activism and musical and artistic accomplishments are frequently referenced when she is mentioned and she often is mentioned as an inspiration for contemporary artists. Over the past two years she has received media coverage in relation to her induction into the South African Hall of Fame, her role as an inspirational social activist and artist who has influenced contemporary artists, articles about the passing of Hugh Masekela, her former husband, a documentary that was made about her in 2011 but is just this year receiving its official US release, a biopic that is in production, and the release of a hugely popular song called Makeba by the French singer-songwriter Jain. She is also the subject of a recent children’s book that is popular on Amazon as well as being mentioned or included in many other, older books. The recent news coverage of Makeba indicates that she remains a person of interest to the public largely for her role as a social activist and artist and her influence on contemporary artists.


In her heyday Miriam Makeba was a popular singer, actress, and social activist. She was a strong voice opposing apartheid in South Africa and helped to popularize African music in the 1950s and 1960s. She recorded and performed songs in English and was South Africa’s first Grammy winner and Top 10 artist. She worked with popular musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Harry Belafonte, Joe Pass, Nina Simone, Hugh Masekela, Odetta, and Paul Simon.

Today, based on the variety of popular press articles we found, Makeba appears to be relevant and remembered as a women leader, a social activist, and an artist, her influence on contemporary artists is a frequent reason she is cited in press articles. She has also been covered in contemporary media in relation to stories being told about her, like coverage of the documentary about her or the biopic about her, or work being dedicated to her, such as the song Makeba by Jain.

We found many books that reference Makeba however, they are not hugely successful or popular, except for a children’s picture book about Makeba that is ranked 31 in the performing arts biographies in children’s books on Amazon.com.


Recent press coverage of Makeba is sometimes directly about her, often about her influence on contemporary artists or their tributes to her, and also covers the release of creative projects about her, like the documentary “Mama Africa” or the biopic on her life that is in production. The coverage of the documentary, “Mama Africa” in recent years has included reviews in national and local publications in locations where the film is being screened. The coverage of the biopic has been limited to industry publications, like Variety or Deadline. In 2017, Makeba’s album, “Pata Pata” was listed as No. 66 on the NPR list of 150 Greatest Albums Made by Women. Overall, her contemporary popular appeal can be illustrated through references to her work as an African female leader, a social activist and artist, her marriage to Hugh Masekela, her influence on contemporary musicians, musical tributes that pay homage to her, coverage of the documentary about her, coverage of the biopic about her, and coverage of the viral song and music video "Makeba" by Jain. She is even mentioned in an article about the popular film "Black Panther" in relation to her work as a social activist and advocate.

In the beginning of 2018, Hugh Masekela, a famous activist and artist and former husband of Makeba, passed away. There were many articles covering his passing and honoring him and almost all mention that Miriam Makeba was his former wife. Articles about this have appeared in the Guardian, Quartz, the Economist, the Independent, New Vision, the New York Times, and many other national and international publications.

Makeba is frequently referenced as a social activist and important leader of women's rights and social justice in Africa and specifically South Africa. This can be seen in coverage of her induction to the South African Hall of Fame. She is mentioned in an article about female solidarity in Africa and healers in Africa and she is mentioned as an influential artist who helped bring African music to an international audience.

As a major musical force from Africa and the first African artists to win a Grammy, Makeba is frequently referenced in articles as an influence on contemporary artists or as the subject of tributes and homages. The Soil, a Soweto born a capella group, reference her as an influence in a recent article, as does Akua Allrich and Angelique Kidjo. Her music is being honored in various performances and tributes, including by singer Thulile Zama, Pink Martini, the Dark City Sisters and Lorraine Klaasen as part of a "Global Village" program, and the song "Makeba" by French singer-songwriter Jain.

Among the biggest boost to popular awareness of Makeba in recent years comes from the song “Makeba” released by the French singer-songwriter Jain in 2017. The music video for the song became a viral hit, receiving press coverage and over 43 million views on YouTube. Jain made the song with the hope of revitalizing popular interest in Makeba after she realized that many of her contemporaries did not know who the South African artist was. More recently, after the song was used in a Levi’s commercial it has lead on Billboard & Clio’s Top Tv Commercials chart.

The documentary “Mama Africa” directed by Mika Kaurismaki is a short film, around 20 minutes, that was released in 2011. The film played at some festivals, but its Gross USA box office returns were only $10,430 as of February 15, 2018. This indicates that the film was not widely watched or popular in pop culture. However, the film is being re-released and shown in the US as covered by “Nashville Scene” in 2017 and by the Freep Festival in 2018 and this may increase the popularity of the film or the popular awareness of Makeba. The film has received many recent reviews in national and local publications, including the New York Times, the LA Times, the Village Voice, Nashvile Scene, Town Topics, Insight News, the Baltimore Sun, and other publications.

There is currently a biopic about Miriam Makeba that is in production and has received coverage by industry publications, including Variety and Deadline. This coverage dates back to 2016 and there has not been more recent or updated news on the biopic project. The articles that cover the biopic appeared in industry publications, not general news sources, and the articles are short and basic. The movie appears to have the support of the Makeba estate as it is being developed in collaboration with the Mama Africa Cultural & Social Trust, the Miriam Makeba Estate, and Miriam Makeba Foundation.


There are hundreds if not thousands of books that reference Miriam Makeba, however many are older history books and do not seem to be widely popular in contemporary culture based on their rankings on Amazon.com and lack of news reports about the books. There is however, a recent children’s picture book, “Mama Africa!: How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song” that is popular on Amazon.com, being ranked #46 in the section Books > Children’s Books > Biographies > Performing Arts.


Miriam Makeba is a prominent part of history and had a period of wide popularity starting in the 1950s and 1960s and her influence continues to be fealt and covered in the media. In recent years she continues to appear regularly in the popular press where she is still recognized and respected as a social activist and artist, as seen by the many articles listing her as a musical inspiration, the article about her induction to the South African Hall of Fame, the various musical homages paid to her, and her inclusion on the NPR list of 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women. In addition, she has received coverage in recent years in relation to creative projects about her, including a documentary from 2011, a biopic in production since 2016, and a hugely popular song called “Makeba” by French singer-songwriter Jain released in 2017. The main factors that are cited when she is referenced are her role as a female leader and social activist, her marriage to Hugh Masekela, her influence on contemporary artists, and her own impressive and groundbreaking music career.

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Kerry Washington Public Perception

Kerry Washington, producer and actress best known for her starring role as Olivia Pope in the hit television series Scandal, is one of the most recognized and respected television actresses today. Washington has been the recipient of numerous awards — both professional and humanitarian — and was listed by Forbes as one of the highest-paid television actresses in 2016 and 2017. Based on her positive reputation and continued success as an actress, as well as her personal and political views, Washington would be well-suited to portray Miriam Makeba.


Kerry Washington's film career debuted in 2000 with Our Song, followed by more notable roles in Save the Last Dance, Ray, and For Colored Girls. In 2012, Washington became a household name following the release of Scandal, an award-winning drama series that focuses on political scandal. Washington, who portrays Olivia Pope, the "best fixer in D.C.," became the first African-American woman to headline a network TV drama in nearly 40 years.

In 2016, Kerry Washington portrayed Anita Hill, who accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, in Confirmation. Washington received positive reviews for her role as Hill and Confirmation received multiple awards. This role was a true testament to Washington's talent. She convincingly played a real-life character surrounded in political controversy. This ability is certainly something to consider when deciding who will portray Miriam Makeba.


According to AOL, Kerry Washington came to be known as a "social media goddess." As of 2016, she had 3.8 million Twitter followers, to which she attributes her authenticity. She has been described as "one of the most prolific actresses of her generation." Washington received positive Q Scores for recognition, meaning she was ranked as a favorite among survey-takers.

It appears that fans have a hard time separating Kerry Washington, the person, from Olivia Pope, the character. The lack of direct praise across the web could stem from Washington's long-standing desire to be a private celebrity. She is described as being "down to Earth," sophisticated, and poised, and although fans praise her frequently on Twitter, it appears that their praise is directed more-so at Pope. Following the last airing of Scandal, many fans took to Twitter to say their farewells and most shared the same sentiment — that they would miss Scandal — but one fan in particular, thanked Washington personally for "paving the way for so many new actresses & new shows" and for letting "the world know black girls can lead a show, be sexy, be smart."

Activism and humanitarianism

Second to acting, Kerry Washington is an activist and a humanitarian. She uses her celebrity platform to voice her political and personal views, and does so regardless of any backlash she might receive. During an acceptance speech last October, Washington accused the White House of preaching division and discrimination. She openly supports the LBGT community and same-sex marriage, and she speaks out freely against domestic violence. Her humanitarian efforts are not unlike those of Miriam Makeba.


Kerry Washington is the recipient of numerous awards, including two Golden Globe awards and three Emmy awards. In 2009, Washington was appointed by President Obama to the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities and in 2014, she was named one of the Most Influential People in the World by Time.


In conclusion, Kerry Washington is well-known, highly-respected, and praised, not just for her acting, but also for her humanitarian efforts. She is well-suited for the role of Mirian Makeba and because of their shared activism, Washington would play this role convincingly and sincerely.

From Part 02