If a Tree Falls

PBS Premiere: Sept. 13, 2011Check the broadcast schedule »

Interview: Matt Berninger of The National

POV: 'If a Tree Falls' features four songs by The National, including "Cherry Tree" and three others. How did it happen that so many of your songs ended up in the film? You've known filmmaker Marshall Curry for a long time, right?

Matt Berninger: Marshall and I have been friends for close to fifteen years, ever since working together in New York building websites at a new media company. Marshall has been a big inspiration and supporter of our band since we first started playing to empty clubs in New York. I love his films, and trust his vision, so we'll give him as many songs as he wants.

POV: Do you have a personal interest in the environmental movement? What are your thoughts about 'If a Tree Falls'?

Berninger: Marshall is a filmmaker of incredible empathy. He shows great respect for the people in his films, and for all sides of a story. That's what makes If a Tree Falls so special: it's an unbiased but passionate investigation of a complicated issue.

At the 'If A Tree Falls' premiere: (l-r) Chris Hegedus, Carin Berninger, Matt Berninger, DA Pennebaker and Jean Kim

At the 'If a Tree Falls' New York City premiere: (l-r) Chris Hegedus, Matt's wife Carin, Matt Berninger, DA Pennebaker and Jean Kim

POV: Do you license songs to films often? Have you ever written music specifically for a film before?

Berninger: We just wrote a song for a film by Tom McCarthy called Win Win. And there's a great movie that just came out called Warrior which uses two of our songs. It's always a thrill to hear your songs used in a new context. The Obama campaign used an instrumental version of "Fake Empire" for a video -- that was pretty incredible.

POV: Do you think you'll write scores for more films in the future?

Berninger: Writing "Think You Can Wait" for Win Win was a great challenge because we were trying to capture a certain mood -- the song was there to support what was happening onscreen. Aaron and Bryce [Dessner] are working on some instrumental film scores at the moment. We had a good experience with Win Win -- so, yes, I could see us doing it again.

Images: Homepage image from Flickr user: OpenEye; Image this page courtesy of Marshall Curry.