Shane Smith Q&A: ‘Vice’ creator
Shane Smith, the creator of “Vice,” has interviewed many prominent people but has yet to score a chat with President Donald Trump. If he were to land one though, his first question to the commander-in-chief would be from one media guy to another, “Is it real?” In our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above), he elaborates, “He’s created the greatest reality TV show ever but the problem is that it has political ramifications. So, how much of this is driven by a real political vision and how much is him being a showman saying, ‘This is fun I’ll do this for a while.'”
Since premiering on HBO in 2013, “Vice,” based on Smith’s magazine that he founded in Montreal, Canada, has been doing incredible journalism. The show has also been a constant contender at the Emmys, getting nominated in the Informational Series or Special category every year since launched. The program took the prize in 2014, earning Smith the trophy that’s seen behind him during our interview (and also giving producer Bill Maher his first ever Emmy). Smith was also nominated as a producer of two shows for his Viceland cable network last year: “Gaycation with Ellen Page” in Best Unstructured Reality Program and “Woman with Gloria Steinem” in Best Documentary or Nonfiction Series.
Smith recalls the origins of him getting a show on HBO being a brief exercise in humility. Vice had been doing content for YouTube and got a meeting with Jeff Fager, the former chairman of CBS News. He wanted to give them a show and Smith a job as a host on “60 Minutes.” “I called my agent, Ari Emanuel, telling him I got this great offer; what do I need an agent for? He told me I was an idiot because we wouldn’t be able to do the things that make us ‘Vice.'” Emanuel told him that the best route to go would be with HBO and set up a meeting with network chairman, Richard Plepler, and it was “a total lovefest.”
For this year’s Emmys, “Vice” has chosen the first two episodes of the season to be submitted for consideration: “Assad’s Syria & Cost of Climate Change” and “Trans Youth.” Smith explains, “I think it’s a good encapsulation of what ‘Vice’ is doing.” The piece on Syria sticks out to Smith because “until recently, the idea of Assad staying in power was unthinkable” and the pieces done in Homs where people, whose entire lives were destroyed in bombings, were still praising the government. He also mentioned that the show has a long commitment to environmental programming and that the episode on trans youth stood out because of how misunderstood the trans community is, especially in regards to young kids.