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Arts and Entertainment

Why Jared Leto Wants Everyone In America To Send Him Their 4th Of July Videos

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Musician/Academy Award-winning actor/director Jared Leto has a long history of confounding expectations, and his latest project is no different. In what can only be described as a massive undertaking, Leto and his band Thirty Seconds To Mars are endeavoring to make a video portrait of America, capturing a single day in the life of the country.

On July 4, Team Leto had film crews in all 50 states (plus D.C. and Puerto Rico) shooting for A Day in the Life of America, a documentary that will be released with Thirty Seconds to Mars' forthcoming album. Leto has also led a giant social media campaign encouraging Americans to submit their own footage for the project, which will be crowdsourced from "anyone and everyone." (Submissions will be open until July 15, 2017 at 11:59 P.M. EDT and content can be uploaded here).

We talked to Leto about the project, his aims, and how touring the country with Thirty Seconds to Mars helped shaped his view of America:

How did this project begin? It was really the music. It's the new album that inspired me, thematically. It's very much in line with the project that we're doing. When I was a kid in 1986, I saw a book that National Geographic made called A Day In The Life of America and it was photographers that went around the country on a single day and took photographs. And I thought what a great idea to take it a step further and paint this portrait of the country in what is a really important time.

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What do you mean by an 'important' time, exactly? Are you referring to the Trump presidency? I'm referring to everything. I think it's an important time right now, politically. I think it's an important time, environmentally. I think it's an important time, socially. I think a lot of people are thinking about the future. People have concerns about the future. I think there's a feeling of uncertainty. I'm on tour right now with Thirty Seconds to Mars and we've been on stage night after night after night and we feel so much unity and so much commonality out there on the road. Music can do that, film can do that, art can do that. While the goal of this piece isn't necessarily about unification, I think it's an important time to hold up a mirror and take a cold, hard look at ourselves. And say 'Who are we as Americans? And what is the America that we hope to have in the future?' And so we're asking people out there. We're shooting in all 50 states and Puerto Rico and D.C. We're asking people to pick up their cellphones, pick up a camera, interview yourself, ask yourself the questions what does America mean to you, what does the American Dream mean to you, what are your hopes and dreams for the future, what are you greatest fears. And also go out and film something. A sunset, a sunrise.

We're doing this on the 4th of July, it's a poignant date. But it's less about the 4th of July specifically, and more about who we are as a nation. We don't want things to be sugarcoated. We don't want them to be polite. We want things to be challenging. I hope to get footage that's fun and funny and inspiring, but also footage that I disagree with, footage that may be upsetting, that causes a conversation or discussion.

How do you feel about the future of the country right now? Are you hopeful? What are your biggest concerns? I think this is an incredible country. I have traveled the world many, many, many times with Thirty Seconds to Mars. We have toured more than is reasonable, and probably against any doctor's recommendations. We've seen a lot. This is a very special place, because of our differences. I think America has so much potential. I'm optimistic about the future of the country. I think we have some of the most incredible and talented people in the world here, and I think it's still a place where people have opportunities. I've been very fortunate, and on the receiving end of all the promise of America. I was born to a single mother, who with hard work and a lot of perseverance took her two kids and made a better life for herself. I have very strong thoughts and feelings about America.

Logistically speaking, can you tell us a little more about how filming will work? We have hired people in all corners of the country to film and we will be capturing footage ourselves. But I think the most compelling footage will probably come from the crowdsourced element of the project. That will be the most surprising, and I think probably will be the most poignant.

What's the timeline for putting everything together and what format will it be shared in? It'll be shared as soon as we're done. It depends how much footage we have. Is it hundreds of hours? Is it thousands of hours? We're trying to get the word out—the success or failure of this really depends on the participation of the public. We're looking for what's challenging or exciting or inspiring or brave or bold, and what will help illustrate who and what we are as a nation, right now. We're dependent on the participation from young filmmakers, from moms, from police officers, from students, from anyone and everyone who wants to tell their story. This all ties together with the music. The album is in line thematically with this project. The album that's coming out later this year will be the soundtrack for the film.

This interview was condensed slightly.

You can submit your footage and photos here until July 15, 2017 at 11:59 P.M. EDT.

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