The increasingly nasty strike by commercial actors, now in its fourth month, is inadvertently pushing the Hollywood production machine into high gear.

Hollywood studios' contracts with screenwriters and actors aren't set to expire until next May and June, respectively. But the tension resulting from the commercial actors' strike has Hollywood executives nervous about a possible protracted industrywide shutdown next year.

As a result, studios are speeding up the pace at which they're buying scripts and green-lighting new projects, just to make sure they'll have enough movies in the can.

There are also signs that the sound stages around L.A. are filling up for the months ahead, as studios and networks move to secure space to shoot in advance.

"This is the time when we start to get calls for the spring, and we're getting more calls for television productions than usual," said Linda Sullivan, general manager of the 35,000-square-foot Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Air Center, a popular film set. "That shows that other, smaller stages in town are filling up for this period, because we tend to get the overflow."

One studio executive said all the studios around town are beefing up production in the event of a strike by the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild.

"They are trying to do as much as possible now because if the actors go on strike, they won't be able to do anything at all except for post-production (work)," the executive said.

Likewise, producers have started buying or optioning as much material as possible. That way, if writers go on strike, producers will have enough finished scripts to continue making movies and television shows.

In addition, they'll try to shoot as many movies and TV shows as possible this coming spring so they'll have enough product to last through the summer and fall and, if necessary, even into the following year.

"There is no sense of panic yet, but (studios and networks) are definitely trying to get their ducks in a row," said Bill Sibley, a screenwriter who has just been hired by a television producer for a project that has to be shot by February. "It will become clear in the coming months whether the parties are in a talking mood. If it looks like nobody is willing to negotiate, you'll see that they will option everything they can get their hands on."


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