‘Mistaken for Strangers’ Director Tom Berninger: All the Attention Is Overwhelming

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The director of Tribeca's opening night film has been humbled by its reception at the festival

Since "Mistaken for Strangers" made its world premiere on the opening night of the Tribeca Film Festival, director Tom Berninger has been feeling the full and heady affects of overnight success. In the rock documentary, Matt Berninger, lead singer of The National and Tom's
brother, invites him on tour with the band to work as a roadie.

Berninger arrives armed with a hand-held digital camera and ready to roll. Hilarity ensues. The film was well received at Tribeca, throwing Berninger into a white hot center of attention. TheWrap caught up with him to talk about what's next for the newbie director.

Also read: Tribeca Opening Night: 'Mistaken for Strangers' a Goofy, Touching Rock Doc

Were you nervous being a first-time director with a film kicking off the Tribeca Film Festival?
I was in this kind of this in surreal state of mind. I was definitely nervous. But the ball was already rolling and I thought, "I can't stop it. So, let's just going. Let's get up on stage. Let's play around with De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. Let's just roll the movie." I was just shut down on all of my senses.

When did you realize you had won the audience?
When the movie rolled and people started laughing it was a relief. But it wasn't until the end of the movie, through roller coaster ride and all the ups and downs, at the scene where I'm telling my brother to look in the mirror and say you don't know who you are anymore. That was when I knew I carried them all the way through.

This film came together at the last stage during edit. You didn't start out with a focus or plan, did you?
No. In the end I had enough for 10 documentaries. So, in the editing, we got really scared. For a while we didn't know what we had. It was stressful because I had a lot of skin in the game. We went the oddball humor. We discovered me in front the camera was the story and that worked out really well.

As a first-time director with a hit, how did you navigate the Tribeca Film Festival?
It was surreal. I'm incredibly humbled by all of it. I'm learning in the middle of all this as best as I can. People keep telling me to get a backbone and stop being so bashful. But I made a movie and it was fucking hard to make this movie. So I'm trying to get more backbone. All this attention is a lot for me all of a sudden. All we wanted was to show a fun little thing. This is overwhelming, but it's great.

Would you do another documentary?
Absolutely. If the right subject came up. This documentary came to me out of a failed attempt of another documentary.

Do you have next?
I'm really interested in the Johnny Appleseed tale. I've always wanted to make a movie about Johnny Appleseed. Either a movie or a video game.