‘Framing Britney Spears’: what happens now in the pop star’s conservatorship fight?

The team behind TV's record-breaking doc tell us about their investigation – and why it's far from over

Since it premiered in February, Framing Britney Spears has become a global talking point. Directed by Samantha Stark and written by Liz Day, this sad, fascinating and ultimately sympathetic documentary explores the court-enforced legal arrangement, or conservatorship, that gives Jamie Spears an astonishing amount of control over his daughter’s career. Fans are so convinced that the singer is trapped in the arrangement against her will that they’ve launched the #FreeBritney movement. As we see in the film, they regularly picket court hearings concerning the conservatorship that Britney herself never attends.

The film is also helping to revise the narrative surrounding Britney Spears, a pop star whose talent, savvy and accomplishments have often been overshadowed by the cruel and sexist way she’s been portrayed in the media. Remarkably, Day says the film could even have gone further in this respect. “We left so much archival [footage] on the cutting room floor – just in the Matt Lauer [former TV news anchor] interview, there was so much more we could have used,” she says. “He asked Britney to her face: ‘How do you respond to the critics that call you a redneck?’ There are some very interesting class dynamics with Britney that I would have loved to explore as well.”

Framing Britney Spears
Spears’ father Jamie has controlled her finances since CREDIT: Sky

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Day and Stark have said they’re definitely interested in making a follow-up film. After all, Framing Britney Spears has shone an even brighter spotlight on the #FreeBritney movement, and the pop star’s legal situation is still developing. “I’ve been up since 2.30 this morning trying to look at things about Britney’s legal situation,” Stark says with a wry laugh. “It’s like part of my body at this stage.”

With this in mind, here are some avenues that a follow-up film could potentially wander down.

The next court hearings are key

“I don’t think we’d have to have anything that transforms our understanding of the conservatorship, because I think our understanding of the conservatorship is quite interesting and newsworthy and worth exploring in further detail,” Day says. “But I think part of it depends on what’s about to happen in the upcoming court hearings [scheduled for March 17 and April 27]. You know, we expect more interesting things to come out of [them] which I think we would very much want to cover. And that very much fits into the stuff that we’ve already referenced in our notebooks but had to leave for time [reasons].”

They already have some potential new leads

“I think it’s meaningful to note that so much coverage of Britney, her whole career, has been done by tabloids [who] haven’t followed the journalistic ethics that we follow as The New York Times,” Stark says. “You know, we’re not going to put anything on the screen that we don’t 100% know is fact. We vetted everything: Liz stayed up many, many nights reading every single word that was in [the film]. And so there’s things that we think we know, but we need to confirm them. There’s stuff that’s potentially really illuminating, but which we can’t kind of vouch for just yet.”

Britney Spears conservatorship
Britney asleep on the sofa during the New York Times’ documentary. CREDIT: Sky

Another interview with Vivian Thoreen could be pivotal

“Our sense in the original interview was that she had ended her involvement in Britney’s conservatorship after a few months in 2008, and she hadn’t been aware of what the current situation was,” Day says of the attorney who rejoined Jamie Spears’ legal team shortly after being interviewed for Framing Britney Spears. “So we don’t know if Jamie reached out to her [again] or why she felt it was the best choice to rejoin the team. We’d love to hear from her. We actually asked her to sit down again for a second interview after she rejoined the team, but ultimately that didn’t happen.”

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However, Thoreen did give an interview on Good Morning America last week, saying: “I understand that every story wants to have a villain, but people have it so wrong here.This is a story about a fiercely loyal, loving, and dedicated father who rescued his daughter from a life-threatening situation. People were harming her and they were exploiting her.”

Stark says she wasn’t surprised by Thoreen’s comments in this interview: “She’s said that in court… I think the argument she’s most often said is that Jamie loves his daughter. That’s the argument that she tends to use a lot.”

Framing Britney Spears
‘Framing Britney Spears’. CREDIT: Sky

There are other key figures on their interview wish list

“There are so many [other] people we’d love to have got on camera to speak,’ Day says, citing various “people involved in [the singer’s] business dealings” and ex-boyfriends who dated her during the conservatorship years. “And of course Jamie Spears has other lawyers,” Days adds, “including Brittany’s court appointed counsel, Samuel Ingham III, and Andrew Wallet, who served as co-conservator of the estate for 10 years.”

The Spears Family are yet to speak out…

“We made a lot of effort from the very beginning of the documentary project to reach out to them and make the case as to why their perspective is important for people to hear,” Stark says. “So absolutely, we would say yes to speaking to them in a heartbeat.”

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