VOD Spotlight: Matt & Tom Berninger (MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS)March 26, 2014

VOD Spotlight: Matt & Tom Berninger (MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS)


Mistaken for Strangers, which opened the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, follows Tom Berninger, a slacker and aspiring horror director whose older brother Matt is the lead singer of successful rock band The National. When Matt hires Tom as a roadie for the band’s upcoming world tour, Tom brings his camera to film the entire experience, ignoring his job responsibilities in the process. What follows is a hilarious and touching story about family, ambition and self-discovery.


On Demand Weekly spoke with the film's director Tom Berninger and his brother Matt, lead singer of the film's initial subject, the band The National.



On Demand Weekly (ODW): When did you know the Tom’s footage had the makings to become a documentary?
Tom Berninger, filmmaker (TB):
It was the editing process. We took more of The National out of the movie and more of me in it. When we saw me crying on screen and me getting drunk on the bus, which I originally filmed that to be really funny and it ended up being really pathetic and sad. The movie came together in the editing room.

There were a few times on tour that I thought the things I was shooting was interesting.

ODW: When did the rest of the band know and what was their reaction?
Matt Berninger, lead singer (MB):
When Tom came on tour, there wasn’t an intention to make a documentary. Maybe he could make a silly little, fun video that we could put up on our website. There wasn’t the idea of a documentary and that’s probably why they let Tom so close. If the band had known Tom was going to make a feature film that he was going to enter into the Tribeca Film Festival, I bet they would have said no.


MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS - Tribeca Film Festival 2013 Opening Night Premiere

When they heard it was as much a story about Tom than of the band, even more so about Tom, they were like 'that sounds cool'. That’s the way I was too. I like the story of Tom’s creative struggles, relationships between brothers (Editor's Note: in addition to Matt and Tom being brothers, the band’s other four members are a set of 2 brothers) was actually a much better idea for a movie than a profile of a band on tour. I think the rest of the band did as well.

But if they had known that at the beginning that it was going to be a feature movie, Brian would not have let Tom into the shower with him (a scene in the movie), that’s for sure.

ODW: Would it have been a vote? What if one band member had objected?
That is a good question. That was always a reality down to the very last minute. There wasn’t ever a full on agreement. And then all of a sudden it got accepted into Tribeca to open the festival, at that point Tom was like ‘Guys, is that okay?’ It was almost too late for anyone to say no.



Everybody loved the movie. When they saw it, they couldn’t believe how good it was and got behind it. It was a giant gamble that Tom took.

TB: My strategy is to...


...corner them,

overwhelm them and

pressure them.

My strategy paid off... 

...And plus I had Brian (the drummer) naked in the shower and half the band members naked in my footage. I could always blackmail them (Matt is laughing).

MB: Very professional Tom (Matt jokes).

ODW: Tom, had you ever traveled or worked on a tour for The National previously?
No. Never, ever. When they’d come to Cincinnati I’d come see them. I have to say, for the first time on tour I really got the luxury treatment, considering they spent the first four albums in a van. I go to go on the tour bus, which I took advantage of. I missed the whole van tours and nine years of their existence, I might as well drink heavily on the tour bus and live it up there.

ODW: Matt, what prompted you to ask Tom to join you for the High Violet tour?

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