In an unusual effort to quell fears of independent film producers, the Screen Actors Guild made an offer last week to grant waivers to certain productions, meaning that they could continue even if actors went on strike.

The offer of waivers is noteworthy because the union has yet to begin formal negotiations with the studios, much less mention the word strike. The waivers would make it easier for film productions to obtain completion bonds.

Insurance companies that guarantee completion bonds to independent film companies have imposed a June 15 deadline, two weeks before the actors' contract with the studios expires, on film productions before issuing bonds.

A completion bond, costing about 2 percent of a film's budget, guarantees that financial backers of an independent film will be paid in the event that the movie is not completed on time or on budget.

"That deadline effectively put a halt to green-lighting any new film projects," said veteran producer Michael Cerenzie, co-chairman of CP Productions in Los Angeles.

Hollywood's major studios aren't eligible for the new actors guild completion waiver. Nevertheless, it's seen as a good sign.

"I think that this is a sign that SAG really wants to work things out without a strike," said Cerenzie, who is anxious to get started on his second Sidney Lumet film, "Getting Out."

"The news was a big relief," Cerenzie said. "Sidney called me from New York first thing in the morning and said, 'Did you hear the news? Let's get going.'"

In order to get a SAG waiver an independent producer must abide by any interim agreement that SAG might craft if a strike should occur and agree to whatever terms are eventually worked out in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Meanwhile, SAG isn't offering specifics about what it takes to qualify for a waiver. And the waiver won't be offered to producers and production companies that use SAG actors for television shows, series and commercials.

New Publisher

Former Variety executive Eric Mika was promoted to vice president and publisher of The Hollywood Reporter last week in the latest senior management restructuring move by parent company Nielsen Business Media.

John Kilcullen, former publisher of Hollywood Reporter and Billboard, left the company last month "to pursue his passion as an entrepreneur," according to a Nielsen statement. Kilcullen was also senior vice president of Nielsen's Film & Performing Arts and Literary & Music groups.

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