Sony Pictures Television’s Gemstone Studios Announces The Winner Of First Rising Storytellers Search

Emerging Writer Jenny Schuster Wins Development Deal for Dirty Thirties

Esta Spalding Attached as Executive Producer and Showrunner, Diane Paragas attached as Executive Producer and Director

LOS ANGELES, January 27, 2021 -- Gemstone Studios, the boutique production unit of Sony Pictures Television (SPT), in partnership with Ideas United, an Atlanta-based creative agency, today announced the winner of its first Rising Storytellers Search, a competition seeking emerging voices and female-centric stories. Jenny Schuster won with her pitch for Dirty Thirties, a darkly personal dramedy about a millennial woman looking for love while fighting breast cancer. As the winner of the Rising Storytellers Search, Schuster has received a deal to develop Dirty Thirties, along with other prizes.

Dirty Thirties is a single-camera half-hour dramedy that tells the story of 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.

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. She enjoys performing in storytelling shows, and through her work as a cancer-awareness advocate, she educates young women across the US about breast and ovarian health. Dirty Thirties is inspired by Schuster's experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 32.

“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. It means the world to me that they believe in this project just as much as I do,” said Schuster.

“Jenny’s pitch was so compelling and emotional that hearing it was as if I was already watching the show. I knew I had to do everything I could to help bring these characters and this story to the screen,” said Esta Spalding, a Rising Storytellers Search judge who is now attached as an executive producer and showrunner for the project. 

“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,” said Diane Paragas, a fellow Rising Storytellers Search judge who is now attached as an executive producer and director.

For the Rising Storytellers Search, aspiring 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 SPT and provided production consultation from Ideas United to elevate their pitches before presenting pitches to a panel of judges last fall. Judges included executive producer Sonay Hoffman (For Life), executive producer/showrunner Spalding (On Becoming a God in Central Florida) and writer/director Paragas (Sony Pictures’ Stage 6 Films’ Yellow Rose).

“Discovering such breakthrough creators in this first launch of our Search was beyond any of our wildest dreams. 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,” said Marie Jacobson, EVP of Gemstone Studios. “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.”

For her proposal, Schuster won a development deal with SPT’s Gemstone Studios along with other prizes, including a Sony Alpha Camera Body, Model a7S III, lenses, other camera equipment and access to Sony DMPC technical-virtual training. She is also receiving a 24-month subscription to Celtx Video Production Studio Software with personalized instruction and training, as well as Josefinas products.

Gemstone Studios plans to take Dirty Thirties out to buyers in February. 

About Gemstone Studios
Sony Pictures Television’s Gemstone Studios is a boutique label dedicated to premium independent production. Gemstone Studios seeks to complement the traditional studio approach with gutsy, signature shows from a diverse slate of storytellers. Gemstone’s indie mandate leans heavily on creative, efficient execution and innovative packaging to deliver premium series to networks and platforms in an increasingly competitive marketplace.