Leto's directorial debut, the documentary "Artifact," hits iTunes today—originally planned as a making-of chronicle of the band's third album, "This Is War," it transformed into a music industry war documentary about Leto and Thirty Seconds to Mars's marathon contractual fight with their record label, EMI. Indiewire caught up with Leto on the road in the United Kingdom as he traveled between shows in London and Manchester.
You're having a great year—your role in "Dallas Buyers' Club" has received critical acclaim and lots of award buzz, and you have "Artifact" coming out, which is something totally different. I wanted to start with that title. Why did you call the film "Artifact?
When I was making the film, I thought about gathering and collecting all of the elements of this period of our lives, capturing everything that was necessary to tell the story as an artifact of our lives.
Was that a title that you had in mind when you set out to make the film? Or did it come over the course of making it?
It was actually in place well before I finished the film—I had started calling it that early on. And it was also about the death of the traditional music business, the burial process of looking back at another time and a way things used to work. That played into the title in a way I liked quite a bit
Tell me a little more about Bartholomew Cubbins. Why'd you decide to direct this and why did you go for that particular Dr. Seuss pseudonym.
It's something I started doing about ten years ago when I started directing. I wanted to have anonymity working freely without any kind of preconceived notions or constraints. It was just some privacy. So instead of putting my own name on projects I was directing, I used the name Bartholomew Cubbins.
I've used the title for so long now, it just became kind of a fun thing. It also became the worst-kept secret in town. The latest project that I directed is called "City of Angels"—it's a short documentary about life and dreams and creativity and the wonderful place that is Los Angeles, California. But I actually put my own name on that one. It was the first time I'd ever done that. I'd used several different names, but it was just such a personal thing. I thought it was appropriate to put my name on that piece.
Let's switch gears for a little bit. One of the really interesting arguments your film makes is this idea that the music industry has changed because more and more labels are owned by corporations now, so there are business types at the top calling the shots instead of creatives. Many people would make the same argument about the film industry. As someone who's worked—and found success—in both industries, what are your thoughts on that corporatization element of the music business vs. the movie business?
They share quite a bit and they have their own completely different worlds. I'm a believer in the idea that you should disrupt yourself because someone else will come along and do it for you. I think the movie industry has been slow to adapt and I think the music industry has been the canary in the coal mine. It suffered casualties before the movie business quite simply because of one technical fact: the size of the file. If movie files were small and as easy to share and download illegally as music is, the movie business would have been hit hard simultaneously. But what happened is the music business was hit first, and as we can see in hindsight, it was absolutely blind-sided. It was full of all kinds of bureaucracy, corporatization and its fair share of corruption. They weren't really in a position to adapt quickly—it became a great case study and an example for the ‘innovator's dilemma.'
Had they been listening and had they been spending some of that profit on research and development, maybe they could have developed their own systems and platforms that could have helped them with the transition. I think that that's a big difference between the two [industries].