UPDATED with quotes from original 8:54 a.m. story: Framing Britney Spears, the New York Times documentary that brought renewed attention to the pop singer’s conservatorship, earned an Emmy nomination Tuesday for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special.
“It’s really wonderful to be recognized,” director-producer Samantha Stark told Deadline. “We had a big team that made this so it was great to be nominated in this category because it’s the whole team’s work together.”
But she added, “We have mixed feelings about it because Britney is currently in this [conservatorship] court battle… So it is a little odd for us to be celebrated in this way when that’s happening. But what I hope it signifies is how many people want to know the truth about Britney and are interested in really learning the real stories.”
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Co-EP and writer Liz Day echoed that feeling.
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“It’s complicated because while this is a very lovely honor I think we’re both really focused on Britney’s court case,” Day said. “She’s still fighting for a pretty basic right to even be able to hire her own lawyer and we don’t know whether she’s going to be able to do that.”
The Emmy recognition comes a day before another major hearing in downtown Los Angeles where a judge will hear more arguments related to the conservatorship, a court-ordered arrangement originally imposed on Spears in 2008 after she apparently struggled with mental health issues. The singer appeared in court last month, calling the conservatorship abusive and asking that her father, Jamie Spears, be removed as conservator.
The documentary debuted in February as part of the FX series The New York Times Presents. It explored the conservatorship, the way the tabloid and television news media treated Spears during the height of her struggles in the late 1990s and early aughts, and the #FreeBritney movement that rose up in 2019, an attempt by fans to protest the conservatorship and potentially “free” Spears from it.
During an appearance in Deadline’s Contenders Television event in May, Stark offered her perspective on the conservatorship.
“[Spears] is put in this very restrictive legal arrangement, really meant for people who cannot communicate or make decision for themselves,” Stark commented. “We really wanted to examine that because we felt it… hasn’t been examined by journalists very deeply.”
In the Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special category, Framing Britney Spears will go up against Boys State, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, The Social Dilemma, and Tina.
Spears, 39, addressed Judge Brenda Penny in Los Angeles Superior Court for 30 minutes on June 23, saying under the terms of the conservatorship she was forced to work, could not make creative decisions about her shows, and was required to use a birth control device to prevent her from having any more children (she has two teenage boys by ex-husband Kevin Federline). A week later, Penny denied the request to remove Spears father as conservator.
Since Spears’ virtual court appearance, numerous celebrities have rallied to her cause including Cher, Mariah Carey, Spears’ ex-Mickey Mouse Club alum Christina Aguilera, and fellow ex-Mouseketeer and former boyfriend Justin Timberlake.
A flurry of developments has taken place in recent weeks relating to the conservatorship: Spears’ long-serving manager, Larry Rudolph, resigned; Samuel D. Ingham III, an attorney appointed by the court in 2008 to represent Spears, also asked to resign, and Bessemer Trust, a wealth-management firm that was poised to become co-conservator of Spears, announced its intention to withdraw. Spears’ desire to have a new lawyer appointed on her behalf to argue for an end to the conservatorship may be addressed at Wednesday’s court hearing.
“A lot of people told us the conservatorship, it’s been there forever, you can’t crack it,” Stark told Deadline in May. “It’s always going to remain the same. And as we were filming, surprisingly these court documents started coming out indicating that Britney wanted something in the conservatorship to change and that she wanted her father removed [as conservator]… We wanted to just look at the facts.”
Framing Britney Spears triggered over 1 million tweets within days of its February debut. Spears later posted on Instagram that she hadn’t seen the film, but wrote, “I was embarrassed by the light they put me in… I cried for two weeks.”
Day told Deadline it’s hard to say definitively whether the Instagram post truly reflected Spears’ feelings.
“It bothers me when people say, ‘What she said on Instagram,’ reporting as if they heard her say it in person, because this conservatorship is extremely restrictive,” Stark noted. “It’s very unclear if she has a bullhorn to the world via Instagram when her team is legally allowed to limit who she interacts with. I think we can’t report on it as if we know she said it. Maybe she did.”
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