The idea for The Debutante Hunters grew out of Kristy Cuthbert’s longtime friendship with Maria White. Never a hunter, White grew up in Las Vegas but spent her high school and college years in South Carolina, where her fascination with Cuthbert’s life-long hunting passion took hold.
White, now living in Los Angeles, calls Cuthbert “as feminine as they come—Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias, with a gun.” She saw something in Cuthbert and her hunting comrades and wanted to share that with film audiences.
“As a filmmaker, you want to be able to show something that connects us, a passion that’s universal,” White says. “I wanted to know why they were so passionate about what they did. I hope people will see what I saw in these women. It’s not just about killing animals—it’s part of the fiber of who they are.”
White and her crew, with Cuthbert on the producing team, shot 13 hours of footage and edited that down to a 12-minute documentary, financed in part by an Indie Grant from the S.C. Film Commission. The film focuses on Cuthbert and fellow hunters Susan Frampton, her daughter Sara Frampton, Beverly Mebane Helms and Kacey Bates Patrick. White followed them into the woods on hunts and juxtaposed those moments with emotional one-on-one interviews and fellowship gatherings where the women cooked their game together.
The response to White’s film has been positive, she says. Audiences never fail to comment on how the film challenges them to rethink preconceived notions about hunting—and especially about women hunters.
“There’s a sense of passion and a sort of culture and community that people are not aware of,” White says, adding that audiences come away with the idea that “these women aren’t different from me; they just make time to go out in the woods and forage for food.”
The Debutante Hunters won the Audience Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and has screened at more than 25 film festivals internationally. It is available for purchase on iTunes and may also soon become a network docuseries.