Cut films – an approach to engaging young people

The judges panel 2013

The judges panel 2013


Deborah Hutton was born into a large family in Norfolk and became a mother of four with two boys, Archie and Freddie and two girls, Romilly and Clemmie. Whilst devoted to them, she also pursued her career as a health writer, publishing books on the subject for women, and writing as a journalist, twenty-five years with Vogue as well as for other magazines and newspapers.

Attitudes to smoking in Deborah’s youth were so different, and though not permitted at school, she was actually given a lighter as a sixteenth birthday present. Occasional smoking in her mid-teens developed into a twenty a day habit as a student. She stopped soon after meeting her non-smoking husband, Charlie Stebbings, a photographer in London and the arrival of children prevented her ever going back to her old habit.

Deborah had extraordinary energy all through her life coupled with a sense of real conviction in her writing, even more keenly felt by those around her in the seven months after her diagnosis, knowing she had Stage IV lung cancer. She regarded her personal experiences as valuable lessons from which other people – as well as she herself – could gain.

Through writing her blog she took many people along with her on her final journey, informing and debating as well as providing much amusement and of course comfort.  During this brief period she not only tried to raise awareness of the need for greater funding for lung cancer research, she also became very aware of the long term damage smoking causes, in particular to young women who can more readily develop less operable lung cancers which so often prove fatal.

To help others with a terminal illness Deborah also wrote a remarkably positive and clever book called ‘What can I do to help?’ – a supremely practical guide, containing examples of ways in which friends and family of people who are terminally ill can really make a difference.  The book was published four days before she died.

Just two days before she died she dictated a brief but heartfelt note of gratitude to all who had supported her through her life, ending with one simple request… ‘And if I could ask just one more thing, it would be to go out and do a little kindness.’ She died at home on July 15th, 2005 aged 49.

It is out of this simple thought that The Deborah Hutton Campaign was born to focus on a subject so close to her heart – the danger to young people of smoking cigarettes. The campaign is visualised through an annual competition in the UK – ‘Cut films’.  Cut films describes itself as ‘an anti-tobacco and anti-smoking youth project. But it’s more than that. It’s young people giving us and their mates their own views on smoking. It is their creativity and their imagination’. The competition asks young people to create a short film and upload it to YouTube, where the there is a popular choice award; where the most popular film each year wins; as well as a number of externally judged films (judged by experienced directors and young people).  The finalists are invited to the British Academy of Film and TV where they experience a full red carpet ceremony.

Six students from the Queensbury School were presented with two National Cut Films Awards for their short film, Queensbury School Anti-Smoking, at the BAFTA HQ in central London on Thursday 4 July 2013.Their film won the National Popular Choice Award with an incredible 885 votes after over 5000 members of the public watched and voted online for the film on the Cut Films Website. Queensbury School’s film also came top in its age category after a special judges’ panel comprised of filmmakers, health experts and the winner from last year’s Cut Films competition watched all 216 entries in the competition and voted on the winners.

Queensbury’s emotive film tells a 15-year-old girl’s story of how she lost her mother to lung cancer and can be seen here.

Young people seem to really enjoy being part of it –

 “The best bit was coming up with ideas.  It was really exciting thinking how it was going to happen.”

“I had the idea of doing something about peer pressure. You look around at your friends doing it (smoking) – and you think ‘I want to be like them’ – and that’s it!”

“We saw that there are judges of our own age. That’s cool. If they like it then you know that you are doing the right thing.”

“It was really fun, everyone could do loads of acting.  Everyone was laughing so we enjoyed it quite a bit.”

“We looked at the website and then our own ideas began to come. We watched some of the examples of anti-smoking videos on You Tube and then we did some Google searches to find out what sort of ingredients there were in fags.  Some of us weren’t sure how creative we should be, but the Cut Films website gave us ideas.”

“It made it easier to know we just had to say what we thought.  We don’t know what adults want to see, but we do know what we want.”

Keeping Deborah’s aim at heart, the campaign hopes to continue growing this grass roots led approach to reach more and more young people.


Deborah Hutton