As Britney Spears continues her fight to end her conservatorship and take charge of her life, a documentary exposing the dark truths of the pop star’s life has been nominated for two Emmys this year. But for Samantha Stark, director of Framing Britney Spears, it is a bittersweet moment.
“I have mixed feelings about it because we are still following Spears in her court case. Just a day after we were nominated, she again said in court, ‘I want an investigation into this. I feel like I’m being abused’. She is still in the same situation,” shares Stark over a Zoom call with us.
She continues, “She has a new lawyer now. But this idea that she is still fighting for someone to look into her conservatorship, makes me a little sad. It makes me not want the Emmy nomination to feel exploitative”.
Instead, she wants the global nod to signify that people really care about her.
“That they know they were wrong about her years ago. In one of the hearings, she said one of the reasons she hasn’t spoken out is that ‘I didn’t think anyone would believe me’. I hope this Emmy nomination signifies that people are ready to believe her,” says Stark.
She hasn’t been able to share the moment with the star herself. “It is extremely hard to get in contact with her. She still has this really tight group of people around her who are legally allowed to control everybody she interacts with,” reveals the filmmaker.
Framing Britney Spears traces the rise and fall of Spears, with focus on how she gradually lost control of her life after living under a very judgmental, and intruding, paparazzi lens. It also navigated the role of conservatorship in her life, as well as the emergence of the #FreeBritney movement. The documentary has been nominated for Outstanding Documentary or Non-Fiction Special and Picture Editing for a Non-Fiction program.
In fact, Stark feels it also throws light on the play of power dynamics in the entertainment business.
“In her case, the people in charge of the media were often older white men who were dismissing her, making fun of her, and humiliating her. Conservatorship doesn’t take into account coercion, power dynamics of someone who can make all her decisions and control her visits with her children. The documentary feels like it was kind of the start of the story,” she says.
Now, as Spears opens up about the abusive power ruling her life for over 13 years, Stark has started to work on a follow-up of the documentary.
“It feels like we need to continue the reporting because more of the story is coming out and more of what’s been happening to her. She said she was forced to perform. She compared to what’s been happening to her with trafficking. We are continuing to report on it,” says the maker, calling it all very twisted and sad.
While she has started work on capturing this new turn in Spears’ life, Stark is still having a hard time getting people to talk.
“We’re trying to gather new people with new information as possible. It’s still really hard to get people to go on camera. People are still scared to speak out about what they know,” reveals the producer-director.
“They are concerned for their safety, which is really scary. There are also a lot of people who have signed these NDAs . But what we’re looking for is if the NDA is actually enforceable if you’re bringing up allegations of abuse,” she says.