There are certain influences on it Swarm, the new Prime Video show from Janine Nabers and Donald Glover, that speaks for itself. Both prescribed Atlanta, which Glover co-created. And of course there’s the Beyoncé of everything, with Swarm follows Dre (played by Dominique Fishback), whose life and obsession with a Beyoncé-esque pop star (Ni’Jah, in the world of the show) takes a dark turn.
But the list doesn’t end there. “We watched a lot of of movies. We had a lot of movie fans in our writers’ room. We all subscribe to the Criterion Collection. So we were just watching a lot ofNabers tells Polygon, saying she and Glover watched everything from documentaries to feature films to “so, so, so, so much more, just to think outside the box of the way we watch TV now.”
Given the level of detail that Nabers and her crew pack into even a visual album we only see on screen for a few seconds, it’s worth unpacking the richness or influences (cited or not) you can get on screen. see into Swarm.
The Piano Teacher
Nabers says she and Glover are both very big fans of Michael Haneke, citing cache as one of her favorite movies (and indeed, it’s pretty obvious to see the similarities between them movie poster And Swarm‘s). But for SwarmNabers said she was pulling more out The Piano Teacher“one of the wildest journeys I’ve ever taken in terms of just being a viewer.”
“You look at a woman that you are just completely mesmerized by, but also terrified of. And I think just that feeling of I’m leaning into something, but I just don’t know what I’m going to getand just reshaping that feeling a little bit in every episode that we watch with this character was definitely something that was really important to us in telling this story.
The Piano Teacher is streamed on HBO Max and the Criterion Channel. cache is available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and YouTube.
Under the skin
Another easy comparison for the sometimes grounded and eerie tone of Swarmscience fiction from 2013 Under the skin by Jonathan Glazer could fit into much of the show’s world. If you only made it to Episode 2, it’s easy to see how Swarm makes Dre use her sexuality in a way similar to Scarlett Johansson’s Laura (although she is less successful as a decoy than she is, at least when she works in a strip club). But according to Nabers, the bond between them is deeper than that.
In a way, she pretends to put on different skins to see what fits. And I think Dre often does too. We see her in so many different shades of a woman on the show,” says Nabers. “I think in terms of Under the skin – this woman is Actually a stranger in Under the skinand just looking at how we really want to project humanity onto her, even though she’s not human, and we should always try to do that with every scene she’s in.
“And there’s something about Dre’s otherworldliness and we do the same thing with her in a lot of ways and her reaction to things that you think are a way to be drastically different.”
Under the skin is available to stream on HBO Max, or free with a library card on Kanopy.
Don’t fuck with cats
“That documentary just completely surprised us,” says Nabers. “That to me is just the idea of how social media played a huge point in the storytelling, and the puzzle of that documentary, and how the pieces came together. That was all really food for thought for us.”
Don’t fuck with cats is available to stream on Netflix.
The works of Bret Easton Ellis
Bret Easton Ellis, with all his wild pulp and circumstance, is another influence on Nabers before Swarm. She quotes American psychopath as one of her favorite films, but notes that his books are also especially formative Less than zero. “It kind of feels like you’re (…) just running with this woman and you just don’t know what’s going to happen next. And I think that was very, very important to us with a story.
American psychopath is available to stream for free with ads on Pluto TV.
Unsurprisingly, the last show Glover and Nabers worked on together has a major influence on the show (Nabers says “most of the writers” from Atlanta also). Naturally, part of that comes from being formalistic – the moody look and tone of Swarmin particular – especially when it comes to capturing the tone of the Amazon show as it swings wildly from tragedy to comedy.
“That’s just the way we see the story. It’s like math at the moment’, says Nabers. “It can be terrifying and it can be all of those things. But at the end of the day, we can see something horrific in a room and find something to laugh about. There is always something to laugh about.”
But it’s also where the room was able to capture the show’s emotional core: a relationship between two people who are related.
“Even Atlanta became a lot outside of that story of (Earn and Alfred), at the end of the day the core of that story was still that,” Nabers tells Polygon. “And I think that’s very similar to what the story of Swarm is; at the end of the day, the crux of the story lies between the two sisters. And the journey that Dre is on will take us to a lot of very, very interesting and weird places. So that’s always been part of the parallel of working on a show like Atlantaand working on it now.”
Atlanta is available to stream on Hulu.
This one is kind of a cheat. Although Nabers does not quote Lemonade there’s no denying that Beyoncé’s visual album opus impacted the show – our world stopped to watch it fall, just like Dre drops everything to watch Festival in the performance.
What Nabers does say is that they worked really hard to make every glimpse we see of Ni’Jah feel real and grounded in reality. “All that stuff has to feel very specific and real. So we put as much effort into that as we did into writing the scripts,” says Nabers, citing the team effort of everyone from production designers to directors and the writers. “We have people who have directed music videos that are part of our staff. (…) We have Donald, of course, who is a musician himself and is very, very interested in anything that comes out, (and) is very involved with anything branded as Childish Gambino.
“(We just wanted) to really, really capture that idea of who this woman is, and make it feel as lived and real as possible.”
Of course, if you want to catch all the Beyoncé Easter eggs — the concert dates, the “Running Scared” tour with Ni’Jah’s husband Caché, the posters on Dre’s wall — you’ll have to dive deeper than just now. Lemonade. The Beyhive no doubt has educational pamphlets for this.
Lemonade is available to view on Tidal.