Jared Leto is known the world over as an Oscar winning actor and lead singer of rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars. Now, Leto turns documentary maker in his first film Artifact.
In 2008, Thirty Seconds to Mars came back from a world tour to receive a $30 million breach of contract lawsuit by their record label EMI. The documentary follows Leto, his brother Shannon and fellow band member Tomo Milicevic as they contend with the lawsuit while recording their new album This Is War without a record label.
What started out as a documentary simply to cover the making of a new album, quickly turned into a legal battle which would change the face of the music industry. You would’ve thought that a film directed by the lead singer of Thirty Second to Mars, about Thirty Seconds to Mars would end up being an hour and a half of self-indulgent twaddle. Instead, Leto produced an intelligent and engaging documentary, showing the music industry from the inside.
While the film obviously centres around Mars and the band members, the film is broken up with interviews with those inside the music industry – from fellow musicians, to legal representatives and music journalists – showing the antiquated system that is still in use today.
For someone who has no idea how the music industry really works, the film really puts to bed any false notions I had about the industry. Learning that a band ended up in debt more and more so after every album was something I had never expected. The record labels really do rinse as much money out of the musician as they possibly can. All those ideas that all musicians become millionaires from selling millions of albums is pure fantasy – how those who can’t write their own songs survive, I have no idea.
You really end up rooting for the band, seeing how the legal battle upsets the balance of the group. From the beginning of the film, both Jared and Shannon Leto say how they are best friends as well as brothers but as the film progresses, their dynamic changes with the brothers seen bickering over a drum pattern. The only person who stays upbeat throughout is Tomo who appears to not let the case get to him.
What amazed me the most is how Mars ended up going back to EMI. While they may have managed to get a record contract on their own terms, having been threatened with a $30 million fine you would’ve thought Mars would run as far away from the label as possible. But then again, had the band ran from EMI, the film would’ve never been released due to EMI owning the rights to the bands music!
Whether you have an interest in Thirty Seconds to Mars, the music industry or just want something to watch, this is worth it. Artifact is an intelligent documentary with great music and a real insight into an industry that is glamourised.
Artifact is available to watch on Netflix.
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