Local jewelry creator finds Hollywood niche

It’s rare when a piece of jewelry has as much significance in a movie as the Mockingjay pin in The Hunger Games. It’s beautiful, powerful — and created by a local jewelry designer.

“As soon as the costume designer said The Hunger Games, I knew how important the piece was and that it was going to be featured a lot in the movie. There’s a responsibility that comes with that,” said Dana Schneider, sitting in her Canton home on Wednesday. “I can’t say that I don’t get periodically nervous wanting to live up to the expectations of the director, the costume designer and the fans — who all know what this [the pin] is supposed to look like. But I honestly don’t get nervous watching a movie because I know I’ve delivered good work.”

Though the movie will hit the big screen Friday, Schneider, who defines herself as “a science-fiction geek fan,” said she probably won’t see it until next week because of her hectic schedule. To date, she’s designed jewelry for nearly 50 movies including Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Transformers 2 and 3, Green Lantern, Tron: Legacy and Terminator Salvation. And she’s lost count on the number of television shows and music videos in which her work has appeared.

For those unfamiliar with The Hunger Games books or movie, a Mockingjay is a genetically mutated bird. It is a sign of rebellion against an evil government. Mockingjay is also the name of the third book in the trilogy by New York Times best-selling author Suzanne Collins.

Schneider’s pin, made of sterling silver and 22-karat gold plate, which has been aged to look weathered, is a little larger than a quarter. Four were made, including one in her possession. Another three were created, not needing to be as precise, for stunt doubles to wear, if needed. A small amount of steel was used in both pins for strength.

“It was actually really difficult to make,” she said. “It took several months of back and forth [with the costume designers] … but I really like that.” She said the process was a sure way to make certain the pin was perfect.

Even as a child, Schneider noticed the jewelry being worn by actors. She was intrigued by the ring worn by Barnabas Collins in the after-school television hit Dark Shadows. And she noticed the jewelry worn by Ringo Starr in the film Help! But it was sitting in a theater in upstate New York in late 1998 that set her (movie) career in motion.

“I saw the trailer for Matrix and was blown away,” she explained. Right there in the theater, I said: ‘That’s it. I’m going to L.A.’ And I didn’t care if I was just making cuff links for the sequel.”

Sure enough, the motivated designer, who studied at Rhode Island School of Design, made nearly 200 pieces of jewelry for two subsequent Matrix movies.

But the first movie she recalls spotting her jewelry in was the Planet of the Apes.

“In the opening credits …they were panning over the uniform and there was my jewelry,” she said, grinning. “It was very exciting. I was speechless and breathless.

“It was just so satisfying that I had set a goal and was actually living my dream.”

About four years ago she moved back to her hometown of Canton to be near her mother after her father’s death. While she was willing to take a risk of losing out on some opportunities by not living in Los Angeles, that doesn’t seem to be the case. She makes frequent jaunts to L.A. to work on movies. Additionally, actors often commission her to make something special for them — or as gifts to their fellow cast members and crew.

For instance, actress and singer Cher has a favorite ring made by Schneider. And Marilyn Manson maintains some of the most important jewelry in his life was created by her.

“Some pieces I’ll always wear as talismans,” notes a quote by Marilyn Manson on Schneider’s website. “Unfortunately, one I had to throw off a cliff. Not the rings fault, just the marriage it obligated me to.”

With more than 23 million copies of The Hunger Games and its sequels in print, and an expected blockbuster movie, the original Mockingjay pins are certain not to face a similar fate.

Kim Hone-McMahan can be reached at 330-996-3742 or by email at [email protected]

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