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‘Controlling Britney Spears’ director Samantha Stark reveals what aspect of Spears’ conservatorship was most shocking [Exclusive Video Interview]

Gold Derby logo Gold Derby 8/11/2022 Charles Bright
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Even though Samantha Stark didn’t get to interview Britney Spears personally for “Controlling Britney Spears,” she does find herself in awe of the strength that she’s displayed throughout her career. “One thing that surprised me is that people told me that she had been in control and huge contributor to her art as a teenager. When she first became big, people thought she was a puppet, but I heard from so many people that she wasn’t,” she tells Gold Derby during our Meet the Experts: TV Documentary panel (watch the exclusive video interview above). That strength became even more admirable as the details of Spears’s conservatorship were found out. “The question of consent comes up for me a lot, because if Britney Spears couldn’t consent to who she saw and who her friends were, how could she consent to working and signing?”

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“Controlling Britney Spears,” which aired on FX and can currently be streamed on Hulu, is Stark’s follow-up to last year’s documentary, “Framing Britney Spears.” Stark investigated the details of how Spears’s conservatorship, set up by her father, was used to control and manipulate her. Steps that were taken included far-reaching surveillance, controlling who she could be around including her children and hospitalizing her if she didn’t want to do specific shows. The documentary is a part of the FX series, “The New York Times Presents.” Stark was nominated at the Emmys last year in Documentary or Nonfiction Special for “Framing” and is back there this year for “Controlling.” She also won a News & Documentary Emmy in 2017 for “The Forger” for Best Interactive Media: Arts Lifestyle and Culture.

As Stark uncovered more and more details about the conservatorship, she found herself becoming more and more shocked about the levels that were taken to control Spears. She reveals, “We had a person come out who was the assistant to the head of her security. He had evidence that there had been an audio recorder put in her home that recorded over 180 hours of audio. We learned also that they were mirroring her cell phone.” Another disturbing revelation came from someone who worked for Spears’ business management. “The security team were screenshotting her text messages, including communication with her lawyer, who was a court appointed lawyer, and that’s totally not allowed! There’s multiple aspects of what happened there that we think could be illegal.”

The success of Stark’s first documentary about Spears was something she was not expecting. “I was actually terrified the night before that came out, that people would look at the footage and see her the same way as they did before, which was to make fun of her, humiliate her and call her crazy.” She was extremely happy with the reaction and really credits the changing attitudes of our culture with how well-received it was. “I think part of it is because of how much we’ve changed post ‘Me Too,’ but also part of it is that we’re the gatekeepers now. We experienced that as teenagers and we’re saying, ‘No, that’s not right now.’”

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