Hey everybody, how's it going? I'm Chase Jarvis. Welcome to another episode of Chase Jarvis Live here on Creative Live. You're tuned into the 30 Days of Genius series. That's where I sit down with the world's top creatives, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders, and extract actionable insights for you to live your dreams in career, hobby, and life. If you're new to the series, go to creativelive.com/30daysofgenius, the number three zero days of genius, just press that little sign up button there, a blue button, and then you get one of these bad ass interviews in your inbox every morning for 30 days. My guest today you will know him well. He is the front man for the platinum selling band 30 Seconds to Mars. He's an artist in many, many ways, and you probably know him best for his acting, where he's been in movies like Fight Club, American Psycho, Requiem for a Dream, and very notably where he won the Oscar for best supporting actor in The Dallas Buyers Club. My guest today is none other th...
an Mr. Jared Leto.
Thank you very much.
Good day sir.
How are you doing?
I'm good, how are you?
You almost said best supporting actress.
I know, you know what was going on right?
Which is, you know, I take as a compliment.
That's exactly what was going on. You played a trans character.
Thank you. (upbeat music) (audience applauding)
They love you!
All right, Jared thanks again for being on the show man. I appreciate it.
Well first of all, I'm very excited to sit down with you because I think I talked about it in the intro and I've sat down with many people who are thing, they are an entrepreneur, they are an actor, or they are a musician, and you are many things. We were talking about that before we started recording. We're all starting to become multi hyphenates. How do you define yourself, besides human being? Is it artist? Do you consider yourself a musician, or do you, do you play to whatever strength the environment requires you to be in in that particular moment?
Well people have asked me for a long time now about the many different things that I do and I've responded often that I think it's really just a reflection of the times that we live in. I think that a lot of people do a lot of different things and the ability to do that is pretty intoxicating. You know, it opens up a whole new way to fail, which is great because you learn a lot from failure. But for me it was a chance to have more responsibility, to take on and have more control, and to bring whatever vision that either I had or we had as a team, 30 Seconds to Mars, to life. And I think working with record companies taught me a lot about how to be independent because there can be a lot of bureaucracy with big companies like that.
And we've always been independent minded and big believers that you shouldn't wait for permission to get into action. So if you take those kind of steps and if that is your philosophy then you end up doing a lot of different things.
I think one of the things that I'm aware of as you sort of alluded to it's the first time in the history of the world where the gatekeepers are either not present or away in the background relative to historically if you wanted to hang in a gallery you needed permission from the gallerist, you wanted to be in a magazine, you needed permission from the photo editor, you wanted to be in a film, you had to wait for someone else to produce that film, and decide whether or not they were gonna include you in it. You mentioned being independent. Is this something that I'm just tuned into? Do you, do you feel that same ground swell of independence is the new, it's almost riskier to go with the old system than it is to remain independent. That's my thesis, how would you react to that?
I mean I think that's one of the great things technology has given us is the ability to not ask permission from the gatekeepers, to be independent spirited, to be able to write a song in our garage, and put it up the same day, get feedback, and then break down in tears because everyone hates it. (laughing)
'Cause of the YouTube comments, right?
Yeah, but that's the good thing. I mean it's harder than ever to find content, to find work, and maybe in sometimes to find an audience, but I still think it's a wonderful time right now, to be able to speak your mind and to share your voice with the world without having to ask for permission. So that, that's really exciting, yeah.
So one of the, I think learning how to learn is a really core part of this new ecosystem, where you can be, or, and especially sort of if our parents had one job, we will have five, and our next generation will have five at the same time, like lifelong learning becomes a really important part of it. The way that I approached it was I went way deep into photography and learned how to learn how to become a photographer, mastered that, and then I was able to move into directing, and now I'm sort of into building companies, but I didn't, I never really was aware of your process or progress. Did you have that same sort of approach, or did you just start doing everything all at the same time and you know the rising tide floated all your boats? How did you approach it?
Well, I started off in art school.
Here in LA, or where?
No, no, I was on the east coast, and I was studying to be a painter, and you know I always knew I wanted to do something creative with my life, but while I was in art school that's a great opportunity to try out a lot of different things, and I loved sculpture, I loved fine art, I really loved photography. I spent a lot of time in the dark room.
That's a great place to--
Yeah, you know, just you come out eight hours later--
Time is like literally, time stops.
Carcinogenic chemicals and just like, yeah, that was fun. You know, and that red light. The people who don't experience that anymore--
It's super romantic, I love that--
Yeah, it's very cool, and that magical moment when you would first of all take photographs. I did a lot of street photography back then, which was you know an obvious place to go to because you had people to shoot, and--
Yeah, you don't require sort of sitting down opposite.
You can just, yeah, yeah.
And I like to observe. So anyway, but that magic moment when you take some photographs and then you would go and process the film, and then look at your film and see, oh, okay, there's something there on the negative, and then that other moment when you would take it into the dark room and--
Tilt the tray and just--
Yeah, and see, see an image for the first time, or a mistake, or a photo that had you know maybe, maybe the shutter speed was, was set in a way where there was maybe a little bit too much movement, but it, it ended up being a good thing. Something you would have corrected had you known, but you didn't and then ended up with something that was I guess the holy accident.
And that was a pretty magical thing to learn from. But anyway, art school was an important period of time for me and I guess I did start to learn that you can express yourself in a lot of different ways during that period. And I carried that with me even through today.
Sure did you--
And I'm a big believer that you don't ask permission to be a photographer, to be an editor, to be an interviewer-- (laughing) That we all have, yeah, we all have the ability to, and the right to succeed gloriously or fail gloriously.
This, yeah, this started out for me very, very selfishly. I've only had a career as an artist and I started being really inspired by-- Around people who were doing a lot of different things and in this series fortunately I am connected to or friends with most of these folks who have been inspirational. I believe in sort of the long form answer also. I know you don't give many of these long interviews. So A, thankful for your time, but B, given that this is in a sound bite world, is there anything that you wanna talk about with the variety of projects that you're working on? Like the fact that, was it music first and then acting? Was it acting for, you know, then music? What was your sort of priority, or do you have that? Or again was it--
Well, for me it was art first, and it was visual art first but I was raised in a way where visual art, performance art, music, it was all the same thing. Photography, film--
It was all the same thing. That wasn't a different type of person that did that. It wasn't a different path. It was a creative path. So I think that the creative path was first, art was first, and that's still the path that I'm on. Of course you have to be, you have to do business.
At times, and that uneasy relationship will always be there. But I started on the creative path and that's the path that I really like to be on.
You mentioned the business side. Let's go there for a second, 'cause I think it creates a lot of anxiety for folks who identify creative. How important is it to develop your own jobs? I consider you a really astute or aware business person. Is that a learned trait? Did you have that, is that part of art school? Were you learning that simultaneously, or did you realize it was gonna add value to your career trajectory? What role does that play in there? 'Cause it can be slippery for some people.
It plays a huge role. You either have to find someone who you trust and they are your partner, your manager, your CEO, whatever, or you have to become that person yourself, or there's a lot of gray area there.
But I think that the more knowledge you have the better. And you certainly learn once you get taken good advantage of. That's a good lesson to learn sometimes, and you know we've certainly had that happen with us and that was documented in Artifact.
Yeah we'll talk about that for sure.
And you know I thought I was pretty informed before that happened to us and to 30 Seconds to Mars. But I had a lot to learn, and while I made that film, even after I went through the process, I learned even more making the film than I did going through getting sued by our record company for 30 million dollars.
That's so nuts.
For the folks at home, who might not be aware, Artifact, incredible documentary documenting that journey, and the short version is that they had a great contract, signed it, were touring globally all over the place, massive success, huge revenue, and yet you found out you were in debt to--
Yeah, we sold millions of albums and then found out we were millions of dollars in debt and we looked into it and discovered that we were in this kind of convoluted contractual nightmare that we would never really get out of. So we went to war and we fought for our creative freedom and we won, and we documented that with this film, this little movie, I mean. So we learned about business--
It was as great film, by the way.
Thank you, I appreciate it.
It was super fun, super fun.
And we learned how to make a documentary, which is very, very hard to make a feature length documentary is I think one of the hardest things to do, that I've done creatively.
Interesting. What was the, you mentioned it was a positive outcome. But how about the time when you realized that you had to take action on your behalf that, you know whether it was managers or whatever, that that wasn't gonna be something that you were gonna leave to other people, that you had to step up and sort of, again, I'm trying to unpack for so many people who are on the other side of these cameras--
There was that drama of like, oh God, it's not my area of specialization. I'm an artist, I'm a creative, but you clearly had to lean into it.
Well, we had something happen to us and it's more of a I think a feeling when you're being treated unfairly, and you know you have to do what's right. So for us it was very clear that there was a right and a wrong here, kind of like if someone fell down in front of you in the street. I don't know about you. I reach my hand out.
And I say, are you okay, you know?
So that was for us it was very clear this is a battle that we have to fight. It's gonna be difficult. It's gonna be kind of dangerous in a way, professionally, because other artists had walked that path and lost a great deal many times.
So anyway, it was a very clear decision for us, but I think as far as learning about business, I think you learn as you go through the process of the creative process. You know, you take a photograph. You take a photograph and then you figure out well, how do I share this? How do I make a living doing this? How do I make a living, how do I sell a photograph maybe even before a living? And then how do I do this again? How do I repeat this? How do I make this sustainable? Who are the people that can help me do this? So it's kind of a process that, that it's self fulfilling in a way.
I think as you go through it. But you guys must talk about that a lot in here.
Yeah for sure, I mean, Creative Live, it's not just, that's one thing that, that I opted out of art school was because there wasn't sort of a way to make a living there. It was very much just the craft and the craft. I sought out my own teachers and mentors through the process.
And there's nothing like having to put food on your own table as a motivator for how to figure out the business side of it.
And that's one thing we do talk about at Creative Live a lot. There's the Money and Life channel, which is specifically how to make a living and a life in each one of these, in photography, in film, in design, and that has proven to be one of our most powerful channels, for sure.
It's incredible today though the amount of information that's out there. If you wanna be a photographer, you can come to Creative Live and learn almost everything.
Probably everything you need to know. When I went to art school there was a process that was kind of mysterious, you know? And you needed a lot more equipment if you wanted to process your own film. You know, that's a lot of work to do that in your house. You have to make a dark room, you have to get chemicals--
Go back to the dark room.
You have to do--
The bathroom turns into a toxic place when you do that.
Yeah, so it was, the barrier of entry was much higher. So I think that we live in a really exciting time where people don't have to get caught up in some of that Sisyphean task of the technology that was there at the time has been made much simpler, easier, non toxic, and people can focus on the creative part of it.
Yeah, and let's talk about, well, in my intro--
I slipped and said best supporting actress.
And then you called me on it right when we opened, and specifically that was around the character that you played. A, like we've talked about this a little bit before, congratulations, B, I was in that space where Rayon was. You played a trans character Rayon, and she's a woman in my mind. Very, very powerful performance. How does one prepare for something that's such an investment like that? I mean, you--
There's a lot written and I've talked to other mutual friends that have, that were closer to it than I was, but the, that it was just an phenomenal performance. You were method actor, in character. Can you just go there for us for a little bit and give me a little bit of context there?
Well, I guess when I take on a role I become a writer, a detective, you know, amateur psychiatrist, and I start to investigate this life, and it's kind of like it reminds me a bit of learning about sculpture when I was in art school. You know, and you hear this kind of cliche, it's about uncovering what's there sometimes, you know? But I think with building a role, building a character, you, for me, I like to immerse myself as much as possible in this new life and really dive as deep as possible, because I think that the deeper that you dive the greater everything will be, the reward, the contribution that you're able to make, the truth, the authenticity. So with Rayon, with the Joker, with all of it, you know I start from a place of asking questions, you know? And I start from a real below base, like the base line is really low. I start having no answers--
Assume nothing, basically.
Yeah assume nothing and you know I often times have no idea where I'm gonna end up. I would say I never really know where I'm gonna end up. I may have some instinct and be excited about-- But I ask a lot of questions and you know you never know what piece of research that you do, what book you read, what person that you meet and interview with whether it's a psychiatrist who worked at a prison for you know 40 years with dealing with psychopaths and or-- In Louisiana talking to transgender kids. You never know where you're gonna learn that key bit of information that informs a huge part of a performance, so.
When you, this is a little bit of a leading question that I'll reveal why I went there, and it seems to me that you're talking about it in terms of method acting and specifically with Rayon, but that scene, that deal of authenticity of going deep and maybe to a place you don't wanna go, when you never know where the most valuable things are gonna come from, but it's really the journey that impacts that. Is it fair to say that that transcends just method acting to music, to telling your own story, to art, to just at large, that depth, authenticity, willing to go there, vulnerability--
I think it probably is very similar to the way that I've worked on other projects outside of acting and I guess goes back to what we talked about before. It's really the same thing to me. It all comes from the same place. You know, it's hard to list sometimes you know all the things that I do because of course you say musician, of course you say actor, and you could say entrepreneur which we were talking about before, which is a little wonky of a word, but I'm also an editor. I'm also, I spend a great deal of my time editing. That's something I do most days of the week. I'm working on an edit of something. You know, I've done a lot of photography in my life. I've done a lot of art in my life.
You're curating, you're producing documentary films, you're directing documentary films.
Yeah, and then then there's the whole business side of life as well. So you know I don't, again, I think we live in a really fun time where you don't have to ask permission to explore a lot of different avenues. The trap door is doing too many things and not doing them to a degree where there's a sense of reward, 'cause you don't have to do things, like you could say you don't wanna do too many things because you won't do them well. Well, you don't have to do things well in order for them to be worthy. Some people like to surf and they don't surf very well, but it's still fun.
Okay, you know, and but even there are a lot of things that are still fun if you don't do them well, if you know what I mean.
But, so, it's great to do that. I think you just have to have some sense of reward with those things, you know?
Yeah, let's go back to Rayon for a second. The reward, was the reward playing the role? Was the reward the Oscar? Was it a combination or was it something different?
No I think the reward was as far as the character and the role the reward was the building and the dreaming up of this life. She wasn't based on a real person. A lot of people don't realize that because it was a true story, based on a true story, The Dallas Buyers Club. But I think it was dreaming up this, breathing life into this character, that's the most exciting part for me and of the, as far as like accolades, and those other things go the biggest reward of getting awards is being able to share that experience with other people that are close to you and to be able to take that light that shines your direction and shine it back on other things.
Yeah, the empathy that you had in our acceptance speech for that was to me every bit as moving as the performance because you used that as an opportunity to as you said reflect that light back on there. It was a great use of that, if not rare, certainly fleeting moment to having that attention that you had on you there. I thought, yeah, it was just a brilliant, brilliant way of sharing--
Thank you, I appreciate it.
Super powerful. Artifact, let's touch that. You said it was one of your hardest projects ever. Why was it hard? Was it because it was about you?
Was it because it was about you and your brother and your band, and--
Documentaries are difficult because unlike scripted films where you, someone works on a script for a year or two, a director goes out and shoots it, and then you edit it, with a documentary you shoot your script first and then you write your film. So the process is really, it was years of editing.
Lot of the yellow stickies on the wall and that.
Yeah, yellow stickies and wipe boards and false starts and you know exciting days that turned into dead ends and a lot of doubt. Making a shorter form piece of content is a lot easier, and a lot more fun. A feature length documentary was really hard and we didn't start shooting. We started shooting that it was like a friend was holding the camera. I used to call him shaky cam.
We didn't have lavs.
I think we had like a, what were they called? DVC--
Oh yeah, DVC pro?
It's something like that.
Little, one of those little cameras like--
Yeah I think we started like that and then we got the Panasonic one that was a DV cam again. You know, I mean, it was like--
Tapes after tapes after tapes after tapes--
Oh those tapes! The mini, those little mini, oh my God.
Yeah, and then we had to conform them all or transfer them all.
I mean it was a nightmare, and back then I remember that it was a nightmare how we shot some certain things and the way that we had to edit every time you made an edit you had to go back and process that bit of--
You had to render every time you made it, every single time.
That was so brutal.
So if made a change you had to sit and wait and sometimes it took a long time.
Oh my God.
So it was years. It was a nightmare, and I'm glad that we told that story. But we didn't set out to shoot a film, so we didn't set out with an outline or an idea in mind. It was like oh, let's just cover this stuff, and then as the case went on, the battle went on, and during the course of making the album This Is War, we knew we were onto something because we were making this album, we were fighting our record company, we were financing the record ourselves, we were betting on ourselves, we were fighting this giant corporation, and then we started to get slightly better camera and started, oh, maybe we should have a lav here and you know we--
And then you start looking at the earlier stuff, going ugh.
Yeah. We're like oh Jesus. So there was, there were a lot of, there was a lot of craftsmanship, a lot of tricks employed to elevate what was there. But yeah, really, really glad we told that story.
It's a beautiful story. In the few minutes that we've got remaining, I'm trying to uncover two things in particular. One is a little bit about failure. So I think that's one of the things that is, I'm trying to represent the people who are on the other side of this camera, people who are going from zero to one, trying to explore their creativity and sort of get out of their own skin into the, or sort of get out of the world and into their own skin, and explore creativity, and then there are people who consider themselves creative and want to sort of lean into that and failure is a big thing. You mentioned a couple times starting, failing.
Starting again. You, many missed starts with Artifact, which is one of the reasons I just wanna hang my hat on that a little bit as we're talking. Talk about in the sphere of your work, being a multi hyphenate artist and being involved in so many things, what role does that play for you?
Well, I only succeed a little bit because I fail a lot. That's a fact. I'll write hundreds of songs just to come up with that are worthy to make the album. We'll have a you know five hour cut of Artifact just to get 90 minutes that's watchable. But failure is often the thing that leads us to success and success if often the thing that leads us to fail. So it's a tricky one.
And it's funny thing to say, but--
You know I get it.
But it's a true, I believe it, and I find to be true in my life. But failure is a great opportunity. You know, Andy Warhol--
One of my favorite artists of all time.
You know, yeah, the most famous artist is the world. Okay, Picasso and Andy Warhol, hands down, okay, and I would say Andy Warhol is the most recognizable, most famous artist in the world. And will be for the next 100 years. So his first show in Los Angeles, he sold none of his art work. I think that you know someone felt bad and maybe bought one of the pieces.
Of the soup cans.
And one or two and there were a ton of them, and the gallery owner ended up buying them back from the people and kept it together as a set.
I remember reading that.
Yeah. and he said Andy, you know I really think these should be kept together. The show didn't go so well, but you're incredible. I love these. I'd like to buy them all. How much do you want for them? And Andy said, well, send me a check for $1, or something like that.
Yeah which end up being worth hundreds of millions--
20, he sold them for I think for 16 or 20 million dollars and now I think they're worth about half a million dollars.
But, but regardless, you know, here's a guy who had a lot of success in his life and a ton of failure. But I like what he said about, he said it about criticism not just about failure, is that you know just keep making art. Let other people decide if it's good or bad and while they're trying to decide you just continue to make art. That's a great, simple philosophy. You do what you gotta do. Fail a lot because in the failure becomes the most beautiful reward and result.
What's next? You got the big film coming out in August?
Yeah, in August, Suicide Squad comes out.
I think you either texted me or emailed me or I don't remember--
I got a picture of you before it hit the news maybe of the costume.
Yeah it was fun. It was a once in a lifetime. I mean it was really something special to do and again you know a huge opportunity to fail and you know as an actor part of your role on a film you don't have very much control in the outcome. It's up to the director and the editor and the producers and the studio but you contribute in the best way that you can, and I failed a lot during that film. But I took a lot of chances. So I'll always be--
The word on the street is that when you started acting the whole set stopped and watched--
So there's something, you were doing something right to make everybody--
Yeah that's nice to hear.
To make everybody get, everybody's attention, but--
It's nice to hear. I mean I think that I one thing I promised myself is that I was gonna be brave and I was going to take a lot of chances and that's always fun to watch, you know? So I could see why people would say that because--
Oh shit, he's going there.
He's going there, and you fail a lot too. I mean it's great. That's good fun to watch. So we'll see. We'll see what people think and hopefully they enjoy.
Fair enough, anything you wanna leave us with? A question I didn't ask that I should have?
No, just thank you for having me man.
I'm super grateful for your time. You're an inspiration. The multi hyphenate thing, I think it's the future of not just creativity but the world.
And you're living it everyday, so--
And we'll have so many titles that we'll just be known as--
Sweet, thanks a lot brother. Appreciate it. And stay tuned for another one of these things, which drops tomorrow. (upbeat music)