Jared Leto formed a connection to National Geographic as a kid, since his mother subscribed. He remembers the 1986 book A Day in the Life, in which hundreds of photographers around America shot photos from a single day. “I was always inspired by that,” Leto tells Billboard.
Now, Leto is tapping into that inspiration on both Thirty Seconds to Mars‘ recently confirmed upcoming album, as well as a documentary he will direct called A Day in the Life of America. Leto says while starting work on the band’s latest album, “Certain themes started to arise, and it just seemed really timely to create this portrait of America.”
In order to do so, Leto is enlisting the help of well, everyone. On Tuesday — Fourth of July — there will be film crews present in all 50 states, as well as D.C. and Puerto Rico. To fully capture the day, Leto penned a personal note that asks “fans, filmmakers and everyone else” to submit footage of their own, whether it be on a high-quality camera or a phone.
“It seemed like, both for myself and Thirty Seconds to Mars, an appropriate time to make the piece, and a really important time in our country to tell the story of who we are,” Leto says. He explains that while working on the band’s upcoming album — its first in four years, slated for release later this year — the themes and thoughts they were exploring about the tension throughout the country fell in line with the film project they are now making.
As for submissions, Leto says he has huge expectations. “I expect to be inspired, I expect to be challenged and provoked to disagree with footage that we receive.” He acknowledges that he can’t make a portrait of America unless he approaches it with an apolitical point of view and hopes for footage that makes him both laugh and feel angry and disappointed. “In order to show who we really are, we need to take a hard look at ourselves and not shy away from what’s uncomfortable or imperfect. Help us to create this beautiful portrait of our country.”
In the excerpt below from Leto’s letter, which is addressed to “our friends and family across the nation,” Leto offers loosely detailed instructions regarding submissions. All footage can be sent here and will not be accepted until midnight on July 4.
We are asking you to film what’s important, impactful, challenging or inspiring to you.
It can be a single shot, a person, an entire event, or a compelling story – we want to see your America in all its imperfect glory.
When shooting, please try to be as brave, bold and creative as possible. The most compelling footage will be what makes it into the final portrait.
In addition, we would like you or your subject to look into the camera and answer the following questions.
— What does America mean to you?
— What does the American dream mean to you?
— What is the state of the country today?
— What are you afraid of?
— What are your hopes and dreams?
— If there is anything else that you have the desire to say or share, please feel free.