“Artifact” is a documentary put out by the rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars in 2012. This documentary directed by Jared Leto himself, a.k.a. Bartholomew Cubbins, deals with the ins and outs of the music business. It shows the band’s struggle to fight for their album, their band, and their lives. Featured interviews from journalists, lawyers, artists, and music executives direct viewers into a world beyond what we see on TV, hear on the radio, or click on while scrolling through iTunes.
Within the first few minutes, lead singer Jared Leto says, “This record is about overcoming challenges” The plan for Thirty Seconds to Mars was to film the writing/recording process of their album This Is War, but after being served with a 30 million dollar lawsuit from record company EMI, the documentary quickly shifted into something much deeper. “Artifact” became exactly that. “An object (“This Is War”) made by human beings, especially with a view to subsequent use.” We see the band’s turmoil as they struggle to make their art without having any support from a record label.
One quickly learns that Jared Leto is the man behind it all. He is described by many as a mastermind, artist, and a true music titan. Leto and brother Shannon were raised by their young single mother. Jared and Shannon were spilling over the top with music and creativity throughout their lives further foreshadowing their future in music. The brotherly bond between Jared and Shannon is the most heartwarming element of this documentary. They understand and work with each other so incredibly well. Jared mentions that he wouldn’t have done any of this without his brother. Jared is a perfectionist, but for all the right reasons. He was fighting for his band, his life, and his art. Thirty Seconds to Mars had no choice, but to be great. So, that’s what they did.
Many raw emotional moments are shown in this 103 minute long story. Heated phone calls littered with angst-y f-bombs, the Leto’s meeting with the lawyer asking the big question of, “What do we do?”, we see the band creating a studio and putting in their talents day after day to make every single song stand out, and several enlightening moments where you can’t help but want to enlist yourself in the fight for them. Leto mentions in the beginning of the film, “Sometimes you have to fight in order to be free.”
The record deal process is explained in great detail by Jared in the documentary. It is somewhat depressing and expressive of our generation now, which is the digital age. Album sales are decreasing every year, which puts added pressure on record labels, which then pressures the artist. Everything starts to become a well-oiled machine and the art quickly loses its value. Creativity shouldn’t be measured in numbers and time. Thirty Seconds to Mars proves this by venturing on their own and proving that they can create this album, without anyone’s thick packet of paper filled with restrictions.
One of my favorite moments in the film is when Jared and Tomo are seen on a night hike. They are looking over the city lights and Jared says, “By the way I think I came up with a name for the album…’This Is War.'” The moment is almost too perfect. Through all the turmoil, frustration, and fighting, this band pulled through and made something they can be proud of. They prevailed.
If anything, “Artifact” makes me look back on This Is War with a new state of mind. It is a concept album about fighting for what you believe in and having the faith in yourself to do it. This documentary is the biggest “Fuck you” to every major record label that made artists feel like their art is worth nothing.
Those people are so wrong.