Britney Spears doc shines light on legal battle

Framing Britney Spears: The court battle, her father’s controversial 13-year conservatorship and THAT 2007 breakdown explored in new documentary about the dark side of superstar’s fame

  • The documentary reassesses her phenomenal career and downfall as she battles her father in court
  • Britney, 39, is locked in a legal battle to remove her father as her conservator – a role he has had since 2008 after her notorious meltdown
  • The show follow the singer’s rise to fame as a childhood star, dominating the charts in the nineties and her personal struggles in the years after
  • Britney has not been in control of her $59million fortune since she entered the conservatorship in 2008, at age 26, after a number of public meltdowns
  • The docu-series also explored the fan base movement #FreeBritney who are convinced she should be liberated from the conservatorship 

A new documentary has explored the dark side of the singer’s fame, from her rise as a childhood star to her 2007 breakdown and her father’s controversial 13-year conservatorship, which launched the #FreeBritney movement.

Framing Britney Spears aired on Friday night and reassesses her phenomenal career and downfall, as the songstress battles her father Jamie in court over who should control her life.  

Britney, 39, is locked in a legal battle to remove her father as her conservator – a role he has had since 2008 after her notorious meltdown. 

Laid bare: A new documentary has explored the dark side of the singer’s fame, from her rise as a childhood star to her 2007 breakdown and her father’s controversial 13-year conservatorship, which launched the #FreeBritney movement.

The new film, which was directed by Samantha Stark and produced by the New York Times, appeared on Hulu this Friday before being televised on FX that same evening. 

It begins with a montage of the #FreeBritney movement, including courthouse protests and social media videos.

An in-person protest is accompanied by the slogan: ‘What do we want? Free Britney! When do we want it? Now!’

The movement was sparked after Britney began a legal fight to have Jamie removed from her conservatorship, with her lawyer arguing that ‘she is afraid of her father’ and ‘will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career.’ 

Although Jamie no longer holds the conservatorship over her ‘person’ he does over estate thereby restricting, for example, her ability to make financial decisions.


Dark side of fame: Britney, 39, is locked in a legal battle to remove her father (right) as her conservator – a role he has had since 2008 after her notorious meltdown (pictured left)

Protest: The new film which was directed by Samantha Stark appeared on Hulu this Friday before being televised on FX that same evening

After Britney suffered an infamous breakdown and lost custody of her two sons she was placed in the conservatorship of Jamie and a lawyer called Andrew Wallet.  

But in the documentary the pop star’s friend and ex-assistant Felicia Culotta said she knows ‘firsthand’ what Britney is ‘capable of.’ 

The show also features interview footage with Adam Streisand – a lawyer she spoke to previously about the conservatorship around the time it first began.

Old relationships: In the documentary produced by the New York Times the pop star’s friend and ex-assistant Felicia Culotta said she knows ‘firsthand’ what Britney is ‘capable of’

Troubled past: After Britney suffered an infamous breakdown and lost custody of her two sons she was placed in the conservatorship of Jamie and a lawyer called Andrew Wallet

She was unable to actually have Adam represent her on account of a judge who ruled that she could not hire her own lawyer and needed a court-appointed one.

Adam acknowledged that the judge saw medical records that he himself did not but still felt Britney ‘was capable of retaining me and directing me and that the judge should have allowed that to happen.’

His conclusion was drawn from his discussions with her where she was aware that her conservatorship was inescapable but just wanted Jamie out of his position.

Fan support: Andrew gave up his post in 2019 and last year Britney began a legal fight to have Jamie removed from her conservatorship

The way the family was: Britney’s lawyer has argued that ‘she is afraid of her father’ and ‘will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career’

There’s Jamie: Although Jamie no longer holds the conservatorship over her ‘person’ he does over estate thereby restricting, for example, her ability to make financial decisions

Barbra’s cousin: The documentary also features interview footage with Adam Streisand – a lawyer she spoke to previously about the conservatorship around the time it first began


His side of the story: Adam acknowledged that the judge saw medical records that he himself did not but still felt Britney ‘was capable of retaining me’

Another one of the interviewees in the documentary is Jive Records marketing executive Kim Kaiman who worked with Britney early on in her career.

‘The only thing Jamie ever said to me was: “My daughter is going to be so rich she’s going to buy me a boat,” That’s all I’m gonna say about Jamie,’ said Kim who said that it was Britney’s mother Lynn who ‘supported’ her at this time. 

Britney’s former assistant Felicia shows the cameras around her house and opens a box of fan mail near the beginning of the show.

Dynamic duo: Another one of the interviewees in the documentary is Jive Records marketing executive Kim Kaiman who worked with Britney early on in her career

‘These are letters to me from the fans so if I got this many you can imagine, oh, the ones that Britney got would fill up the entire room,’ said Felicia before revealing her role in Britney’s life.

Although she did not receive a specific ‘definition on what I was supposed to do’ in her care of Britney, titles like ‘chaperone’ were initially thrown around.

Felicia shared that ‘at one point they wanted to call me her partner and we didn’t think that sounded right’ and ultimately ‘we settled on assistant.’

Unfiltered: ‘The only thing Jamie ever said to me was: “My daughter is going to be so rich she’s going to buy me a boat,” That’s all I’m gonna say about Jamie,’ said Kim 

Hitting the street: The new documentary begins with a montage of the #FreeBritney movement, including courthouse protests and social media videos


Nowadays: Shortly thereafter the audience are whisked off to McComb, Mississippi where Felicia shows the cameras around her house and opens a box of fan mail

Figuring it out: Felicia shared that ‘at one point they wanted to call me her partner and we didn’t think that sounded right’ and ultimately ‘we settled on assistant’

‘To be honest I didn’t then nor do I now understand what a conservatorship is especially for somebody Britney’s age and somebody capable of so much that I know firsthand she’s capable of,’ said Felicia who has ‘known her since she was five.’

Britney was subject to questionable scrutiny early on, appearing on Star Search in 1992 aged 11 and being asked by an adult male presenter: ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’

‘Of all the things that she could be asked about, because what else could we possibly talk to a woman or a girl about? There’s so much more to her that everybody’s missing,’ noted Britney’s ex-stylist Hayley Hill in the new film.

Agent Nancy Carson who represented child talent took up Britney’s case and ‘Her mom was just so sweet, so proud of her daughter and her dad too was very proud of Britney and he was more concerned with the financial aspect of it.’

Just a kid: Britney was subject to questionable scrutiny early on, appearing on Star Search in 1992 aged 11 and being asked by an adult male presenter: ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’

Pointing it out: ‘Of all the things that she could be asked about, because what else could we possibly talk to a woman or a girl about?’ noted Britney’s ex-stylist Hayley Hill in the new film

Britney as seen with Nancy: Agent Nancy Carson who represented child talent took up Britney’s case and ‘Her mom was just so sweet, so proud of her daughter’

Analyzing the situation: Nancy said that Britney’s ‘dad too was very proud of Britney and he was more concerned with the financial aspect of it’

Nancy said Jamie wondered: ‘How was he gonna be able to make this happen? Could he make it happen? But I know he wanted to make it happen for her.’ 

Calling Britney ‘a funny, sweet, wonderful little girl,’ Nancy explained that her talent and Lynn moved up to New York for training and auditions.

‘All this led to the Mickey Mouse Club audition and she nailed it,’ said Nancy, revealing Britney ‘loved’ the job ‘and when it ended it was devastating.’

Britney, who was born in McComb and brought up in Kentwood, Louisiana, went back down south for a brief interregnum as a regular high school girl.


The woman behind the magic: ‘All this led to the Mickey Mouse Club audition and she nailed it,’ said Nancy, revealing Britney ‘loved’ the job ‘and when it ended it was devastating’

But when Britney got a record deal Felicia was enlisted to travel with her – at the request of Lynn who was raising her younger daughter Jamie-Lynn. 

Kim told the documentarians that Felicia ‘was really sitting in for the parents,’ adding that Britney was ‘serious’ and ‘focused’ with regard to her work.

Jamie was battling various personal problems – drinking, a failed gym business, bankruptcy – and according to Kim:  ‘Lynn supported Britney.’

She was only 16 years old when in 1998 her …Baby One More Time single and video catapulted her to global pop superstardom.

‘Sitting in for the parents’: But when Britney got a record deal Felicia was enlisted to travel with her – at the request of Lynn who was raising her younger daughter Jamie-Lynn

Rise to fame: She was only 16 years old when in 1998 her …Baby One More Time single and video catapulted her to global pop superstardom

During Britney’s teen stardom she was heavily sexualized both in her songs and videos and in the media coverage of her.

As she grew into adulthood she was needled by journalists about her breasts and the question of whether she was a virgin.

In her early 20s in 2003 Britney sat for an interview with Diane Sawyer – who played a clip of Maryland’s First Lady Kendall Erlich saying figuratively that ‘if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears I think I would,’ a remark for which she later apologized.

When Britney got over her shock at the remark she managed to counterargue that ‘I’m not here to, you know, babysit her kids.’

Trouble: During Britney’s teen stardom she was heavily sexualized both in her songs and videos and in the media coverage of her

She apologized later: Maryland’s First Lady Kendall Erlich said figuratively that ‘if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears I think I would’ on account of her being a bad role model

Clapback: When Britney got over her shock at the remark she managed to counterargue that ‘I’m not here to, you know, babysit her kids’

‘I’ll say this, you know,’ said Hayley in her interview. ‘I worked with all the boy bands, all of ‘em – not one of the boys was ever under any scrutiny.’

Britney found herself in crisis when she got involved with boy band star Justin Timberlake – who then blamed her for the breakup in his single Cry Me A River.

In a flash Britney was widely portrayed as the villainess and even Diane Sawyer took an accusatory tone, asking her: ‘What did you do?’

All the same all of the criticism ultimately made her ‘more free’ as she was less concerned with pleasing everybody,’ Hayley contended.

Not having it: ‘I’ll say this, you know,’ said Hayley in her interview. ‘I worked with all the boy bands, all of ‘em – not one of the boys was ever under any scrutiny’

Iconic relationship: Britney found herself in crisis when she got involved with boy band star Justin Timberlake – who then blamed her for the breakup in his single Cry Me A River

Grilling her: In a flash Britney was widely portrayed as the villainess and even Diane Sawyer took an accusatory tone, asking her: ‘What did you do?’

Rehearsal footage showed Britney responding to the accusation of being a ‘diva’ by saying: ‘I’m not a diva! I know what I like and I know what I want.’

Kevin Tancharoen, who was a backup dancer and her tour director for five years early in her career, dished: ‘She was definitely in control of a lot of decisions.’

He went on: ‘That idea that Britney is a puppet who just gets moved around and told what to do is incredibly inaccurate. When I was involved in all of those years, we would present a lot of ideas. She would have to like them and she would have to approve them. She was very creative.’

Kevin added: ‘She was the one who knew what she wanted to do, and she would make that happen or her people would make that happen for her.’

Standing up for herself: Rehearsal footage showed Britney responding to the accusation of being a ‘diva’ by saying: ‘I’m not a diva! I know what I like and I know what I want’

‘She was very creative’: Kevin Tancharoen, who was a backup dancer and her tour director for five years early in her career, dished: ‘She was definitely in control of a lot of decisions’

In an interview during the early days of her stardom Britney herself said ‘that’s why I am where I am today because I do have control, you know?’

She explained: ‘And you just control what you do, you know? You have to otherwise you get sucked in by people that are not necessary.’

Ultimately Britney married sizzling rap hunk Kevin Federline in 2004 and then they welcome two sons – Preston, 15, and Jayden, 14.

When she had a scandal after being photographed driving with her baby in her lap, her defense was that Jamie did the same with her when she was little.

Her babies: Ultimately Britney married sizzling rap hunk Kevin Federline in 2004 and then they welcome two sons – Preston, 15, and Jayden, 14

Controversy: When she had a scandal after being photographed driving with her baby in her lap, her defense was that Jamie did the same with her when she was little

She filed for divorce from Kevin just weeks after Jayden was born and according to her mother’s memoir was also undergoing postpartum depression.

Initially Britney seemed at ease with the paparazzi attention but began to feel increasingly beleaguered by it.

In late 2007 she lost custody of Preston and Jayden but was still able to visit them amid her progressive public deterioration. 

Infamously she shaved her head because ‘I’m tired of everybody touching me,’ and then was then snapped whaling on a photographer’s truck with an umbrella.  

The way they were: She filed for divorce from Kevin just weeks after Jayden was born and according to her mother’s memoir was also undergoing postpartum depression

Initially: Britney seemed at ease with the paparazzi attention but began to feel increasingly beleaguered by it

Cultural landmark: Infamously she shaved her head because ‘I’m tired of everybody touching me,’ and then was then snapped whaling on a photographer’s truck with an umbrella

‘It’s so easy, it’s so much fun to take a celebrity who’s a young beautiful talented girl and rip her to shreds,’ remarked Kim bleakly.

The Toxic singer in short order took up with Sam Lutfi who became her manager and was, according to the documentary, loathed by her parents.

Then one notorious evening she was hospitalized after allegedly barring herself in a room with the children instead of giving them over to Kevin as directed.

Britney for a time lost even visitation rights to the children – and Jamie soon obtained the temporary conservatorship that became permanent.

Rough times: In late 2007 she lost custody of Preston and Jayden but was still able to visit them amid her progressive public deterioration

Spotted: The Toxic singer in short order took up with Sam Lutfi who became her manager and was, according to the documentary, loathed by her parents

Vivian Lee Thoreen, who was part of Jamie’s legal team around this time, explained that ‘having a conservator of the estate appointed for someone is that they are substantially unable to manage their financial affairs or they are susceptible to undue influence or fraud.’

The attorney, who not long after speaking to the documentary got back into Jamie’s legal team, said: ‘It’s more than just: “I can’t balance my checkbook.” It’s: “I could be duped into giving away my money.”‘

The Spears parents alleged in legal documents that Sam ‘crushed pills into Britney’s food’ and was ‘exerting total control over’ the pop star, obtaining a restraining order despite his denials of their accusations.

At the beginning Jamie held the personal conservatorship, whilst he and Andrew Wallet shared the estate conservatorship.

Feud: The Spears parents alleged in legal documents that Sam ‘crushed pills into Britney’s food’ and was ‘exerting total control over’ the pop star which he denied

Lots of faces: Vivian Lee Thoreen, who was part of Jamie’s legal team at the start of the conservatorship and rejoined it after filming for this movie, also gave an interview

Adam Streisand, a lawyer who is famous for cases about celebrity estates and who happens to be Barbra Streisand’s cousin, gave his two cents as well.

Near the start of the conservatorship he took a meeting with Britney at the Beverly Hills Hotel ‘and the first question I had was: “Does Britney have the capacity to be able to hire me? Does she have the ability to take my advice?”

‘So the first thing is Britney was able to make the judgment: “Hey, I get what’s going on. I get that I’m not gonna be able to resist this conservatorship or avoid this conservatorship, right?” So that’s a pretty sound judgement,’ Adam argued.

‘The second thing was, she said: “I don’t want my father to be the conservator.” That was her one request. She wanted a professional, somebody independent.’

Famous links: Adam Streisand, a lawyer who is famous for cases about celebrity estates and who happens to be Barbra Streisand’s cousin, gave his two cents as well

‘That was her one request’: ‘The second thing was, she said: “I don’t want my father to be the conservator,”‘ Adam revealed in the documentary

Acknowledging the judge had seen the medical records and he had not Adam said: ‘I felt that based on my interactions with Britney that she was capable of retaining me and directing me and that the judge should have allowed that to happen.’ 

Shortly before reentering Jamie’s legal team Vivian commented: ‘Of the cases that I have been involved with I have not seen a conservatee who has successfully terminated a conservatorship.’

At the dawn of the conservatorship the pop star shot an MTV documentary called Britney: For The Record and emotionally discussed the matter.

’If I wasn’t under the restraints that I’m under right now, you know, with all the lawyers and doctors and people analyzing me everyday and all that kind of stuff, like if that wasn’t there I’d feel so liberated and feel like myself,’ she said. 

Peek behind the curtain: At the dawn of the conservatorship the pop star shot an MTV documentary called Britney: For The Record and emotionally discussed the matter

‘They’re hearing what they wanna hear’: ‘When I tell them the way I feel it’s like they hear me but they’re really not listening,’ said Britney of the ‘lawyers and doctors’ involved in her care

‘When I tell them the way I feel it’s like they hear me but they’re really not listening. They’re hearing what they wanna hear. They’re not really listening to what I’m telling them. It’s like…it’s bad. I’m sad,’ Britney continued, fighting back tears.

Britney rapidly began performing again and eventually managed a major comeback including hit singles like Work B**** and a Las Vegas residency that began in 2013.

Felicia was hired by the touring company in a much reduced role from the one she once had when Britney was rising to superstardom as a teen.

‘took a backseat and simply did what I was hired to do,’ said Felicia, noting: ‘I don’t really know what went on. I just don’t know that they knew her well enough to realize her capabilities in making the decisions. Just me looking in, that’s what I saw.’

‘Queen of Las Vegas’: Britney rapidly began performing again and eventually managed a major comeback including hit singles like Work B**** and a Las Vegas residency that began in 2013

‘I took a backseat’: Felicia was hired by the touring company in a much reduced role from the one she once had when Britney was rising to superstardom as a teen

Jamie got 1.5% of gross revenues from the residency – and then in 2018 Andrew Wallet petitioned the courts for more money, arguing that ‘this conservatorship should be viewed more as a hybrid business model.’

Britney canceled her second residency prematurely on grounds of her father’s recent hospitalization and stopped posting on Instagram.

In early 2019 Andrew mysteriously removed himself from his role in the conservatorship of Britney’s estate – leaving Jamie there alone.

By the end of that year the conservatorship battle was raging between Britney and Jamie and the #FreeBritney movement was gaining steam.

Leaving the stage: Britney canceled her second residency prematurely on grounds of her father’s recent hospitalization and stopped posting on Instagram

Jamie and Lynn way back when: By the end of that year the conservatorship battle was raging between Britney and Jamie and the #FreeBritney movement was gaining steam

During the whole media frenzy around the matter her brother Bryan gave an interview confessing ‘she’s always wanted to get out of’ the conservatorship. 

In legal documents Britney said she wanted ‘a qualified corporate fiduciary’ in charge of her estate rather than her father.

The  documents also alluded to the singer being ‘vehemently opposed to this effort by her father to keep her legal struggle hidden away in the closet as a family secret,’ acknowledging ‘the whole world is watching.’

Last a year a judge declined to remove Jamie from his role ‘today’ but added Bessemer Trust Company – which Britney picked out – as co-conservator.

Spilling: During the whole media frenzy around the matter her brother Bryan gave an interview confessing ‘she’s always wanted to get out of’ the conservatorship

Throwback Britney: Last a year a judge declined to remove Jamie from his role ‘today’ but added Bessemer Trust Company – which Britney picked out – as co-conservator

‘I’d know at some point she will tell her story, I know she will, said Felicia in an interview at the end of the documentary. 

‘And I am so grateful for when that point comes that she’s able to sit down and, you know, everything will fall into place.’

The New York Times noted that Britney’s parents and siblings, as well as Sam Lufti and her current lawyer Samuel Ingham, would not film interviews for the movie.

”The New York Times attempted to reach Britney Spears directly to request her participation in this project,’ they added. ‘It is unclear if she received the requests.’

‘Everything will fall into place’: ‘I’d know at some point she will tell her story, I know she will, said Felicia in an interview at the end of the documentary

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