To be a success in TV commercials, models need more than a pretty face.
Marilyn Schoeman, a Los Angeles talent agent, says, "We
|look for the clean, wholesome, All-American look--no jewelry, not even earrings. We tell them to keep their faces clean, don't wear makeup or fancy punk|
hairdos, and just to be themselves."
One of the Schoeman Talent Agency's clients, Terri Leigh, 16, fits this descripton. Currently seen on a Volkswagen commercial, she is part of the family with all the luggage that fits into the car without any trouble.
Being a TV model is not all autographs and smiles. "While shooting the Volkswagen commercial in a Hollywood studio," Terri remembers, "we had to sit there inside the car for two hours with all the hot lights on and no air conditioning. It ws really hot!"
Terri started as an extra when she was 12 years old. (An extra has no speaking lines and belongs to the Screen Extras Guild. It cost her $637.50 to join the Guild, plus dues of $37.50 every six months.) She worked on "Little
|House on the Prairie: for two years. In the episode "Martin's Gardens," with guest star Ralph Bellamy, Jenny (played by Shannen Dougherty) was trying to find a necklace in a pond and almost drowned. "Jeb goes in to save her and I am standing in the pond right in the middle of things," Terri says, "so they decided, instead of just standing there looking worried, I should say something. Director Michael Rhodes gave me a speaking part." By yelling to Allison||
Barson, who played Nancy, to get help. Terri got her first speaking role and became a regular on the show.
She also has been on "The Rousters," The Master," and "Matt Houston."
The Big Chill
Her acting roles also are more glitch than glitz. the time she was on the scene with Jenny drowning they had to stand in a cold pond. "My feet were blue," Terri reminisces. "After a take, all the
kids would run over to this little heater and try to get warm. then when we were warm, they'd say "OK, another shot," and we'd have to go back into the water."
That scene took between 10 and 15 takes. Jenny was supposed to go under the water, and it was so cold it hurt her eyes. They used a pond at the Disney Ranch.
Not all acting conditions are a big chill. Terri talks of working with some wonderful people, "Michael Landon is one of the
MEMBER SAG: 201786
HAIR: Blonde EYES: Hazel HEIGHT: 62" WEIGHT: 102 lbs.
"Two Kinds of Love"
"Little House on the Prairie"
"Little House on the Prairie" Two-hour Special
List upon request
"An Apple for Teacher"/School Production/Supporting role of
"Peter Pan"/Achool Productiion/Supporting role of Lost Boy
TRAINING LA Film Actors Lab/12 weeks--Bob Thompson,
Rod Paul, and Nina Penn
One year studying with Diane Hardin
Two years drama in school/currently studying
Three years ballet
One year modern jazz/still studying
Five years piano/still studying
Dialects/Southern and British
Dance--Modern Jazz, Ballet, and Popular
best people you could ever work with, He's just great," Terri says. "We'd sit at the same table for lunch sometimes. We wouldn't talk much, but at the wrap party at
the end of the series, he hugged me and told me he hoped that I'd make it."
Terri wanted to be an actrress from the time she wa 6 years old. While at Luther Burbank Junior High School, she played the role of a Southern girl named Dxie Duke in "An Apple for Teacher." She likes to do accents "I think they're really neat. An accent gives somebody a real character and it stands out because it's different," Terri says. She learned both her Southern accent and British accent in school for the plays she was in.
"My drama teacher, Mr. Abramson, and my choir teacher, Mr. French, helped me the most . They taught me stage presence, how to stand up straight, to look at your audience, acknowledge that they're there when you sing or speak to them, just to have fun on stage and not to be scared."
Few Are Called....
It's difficult to get a job as a teenage actor because, in California, a social worker must be on the set if any actors are under age 18. This adds to the cost of the production,. Also, the labor laws restrict work hours for minors. During an eight--hour day on the set, three hours are for school, one hour is for lunch, and just four hours are left to "shoot." "They almost always go with a legal (age 18 or older) says
Marilyn Schoeman. "From 14 years old to 18, it's tough, but not impossible.
Terri says, "If I know I'm going to work the next day, I get my homework from school, and then, during the three hours of school on the set, we do homework and study. You have to have a guardian on the set, too. My mom or my Aunt Sandy goes with me. "Trri's eyes sparkle. "I just love to perform. I always have lots of energy and have always liked to make people laugh or...not cry exactly, but react."
On one of the "Little House on
which school plays you've been in, your height, weight, eye and hair coloring. (See example of Terri's resumé on the previous page.) Mount small, color photos on the letters you
write to accompany the resumé and send the package to several agents. Will you be called in? Probably not. And remember that even if an agency does sign you on, you may
never get an assignment. Further, it's a long way from TV commercials to starring roles.
But if you're detemined to go for it, keep your grades up so that you can get a work permit. And stay natural. Terrii helps her
mom clean the house on Saturdays. Does she get an allowance? "No, my mom and I do a lot together. We're really close. I do it because I love her."
Now, doesn't that sound like a :"natural" for shows like "Little House on the Prairie?"
Agent Marilyn Schoeman says, "Yes, she's a sweetheart. People expect TV performers, 'stars' if you will, to be rich, stuck-up kids. They aren't. If they get to be 'little bratty stars,' we don't keep them. the competition is too great. they have to stay good in this business or we won't represent them."
the:Prairie" episodes, a deaf child played a starring role. "I knew just the sign alphabet and I started talking to him
in sign and it excited me." Terri recalls. "I decided that there was another thing I wanted to do besides my acting. I want to go to college and learn sign language. I'd like to
teach deaf children sign language--maybe open up my own school later on," Terri explains. "I was always taught that communication is the most important part of living"
And Fewer Chosen
If you're interested in becoming a TV commercial model, contact the Screen Actors Guild in the city where you live. Or, write to Screen Actors Guild, 7750 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, California 90046. You must send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to get its list of franchised agents. then took for the agencies with a Y next to the name. this means that they have a Young People's Department. Send agencies a resumé--a profile with information about yourself;
* To make a living in TV/film acting, it is usually necessary
to live in New York City or Los Angeles.
* The average income level of more than half of SAG (Screen Actors Guild) members is less than $1,000 a year.
* Dance classes, acting classes, publicity photos, and wardrobes cost a lot of money--and don't guarantee you have a chance to
break into TV and film.
from Jill Lewis, March 18, 1986
Enclosed is your payment for the Profile '86 article you prepared for the March issue of CAREER WORLD. Payment includes fee for photos used: 2 photos: @ $10
Thank you for your contribution to the March issue of the magazine!!
Sincerely, Jill Lewis
Note: The magazine paid Jo $120 for this one.