Sony Pictures Television’s boutique production outfit Gemstone Studios along with creative agency Ideas United has selected Jenny Schuster’s dramedy Dirty Thirties as the winner of its inaugural Rising Storytellers Search, which seeks emerging voices and female-centric stories.
With this win, Schuster gets a pretty sweet prize package which includes a development deal with Sony Pictures Television’s Gemstone Studios as well as camera equipment, access to Sony DMPC technical-virtual training and a subscription to Celtx Video Production Studio Software. On top of all that, Gemstone Studios plans to take Dirty Thirties out to buyers in February.
Dirty Thirties is a single-camera half-hour dramedy that follows Dani, a thirtysomething millennial who’s going through a bit of a reckless phase after being dumped by her long-term boyfriend. Not even close to where she thought she’d be upon entering her fourth decade, she resorts to pinot noir and ill-advised Tindering. But when her latest hookup discovers a lump in her breast, Dani’s “dirty thirties” are rudely interrupted. Now, alongside the other struggles of her already messy single life and career, Dani has to navigate a cancer diagnosis and a whole host of grown-up decisions that come along with it.
The story hits close to home for Schuster who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. She has worked as a cancer-awareness advocate and educates young women across the US about breast and ovarian health.
“Even in life’s darkest moments, there is still so much humor and heart to be found. I’m thrilled for the unbelievable opportunity to explore this with Dirty Thirties and grateful for the incredibly supportive team at Sony,” said Schuster. “It means the world to me that they believe in this project just as much as I do.”
For the Rising Storytellers Search, storytellers were invited to submit pitch videos of up to six minutes in length to compete for the chance to win a development deal and other prizes. Four finalists were then selected and each assigned a mentor from Sony Pictures Television and provided production consultation from Ideas United before they presented their pitches to an esteemed panel of judges which included executive producer Sonay Hoffman (For Life), executive producer/showrunner Esta Spalding (On Becoming a God in Central Florida) and writer/director Diane Paragas (Sony Pictures’ Stage 6 Films’ Yellow Rose).
“Jenny’s pitch was so compelling and emotional that hearing it was as if I was already watching the show,” said Spalding. “I knew I had to do everything I could to help bring these characters and this story to the screen.
Paragas added, “Jenny blew us away with her whip-smart dramedy that follows the misadventures of a flawed but lovable 30 something woman dealing with a serious diagnosis mixing equal parts brutal heartbreaking honesty with irreverent wit.”
Spalding will serve as an executive producer and showrunner on Dirty Thirties. Paragas will also executive produce and is attached as director.
“Discovering such breakthrough creators in this first launch of our Search was beyond any of our wildest dreams,” said Marie Jacobson, EVP of Gemstone Studios. “From a wide pool of talent, we narrowed it down to four vastly different storytellers and uncovered a future pipeline for Sony at the same time.”
She continued, “I have great respect for Jenny and her own poignant, darkly comic and incredibly personal story. Esta and Diane’s immediate passion for and connection with Jenny’s pitch make this lightning in a bottle. We are thrilled they want to partner with Jenny to take Dirty Thirties to the next level.”
A Chicago native, Schuster studied theater and psychology at Northwestern University. Selected as a finalist in the Launch Pad Pilots Competition and the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards, Schuster has also received writing scholarships through Hedgebrook and The Sun Magazine.