As Hollywood writers strike, commercials film on

Sun Dec 9, 2007 2:47pm EST
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By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood's writers' strike has paralyzed television and movie production, but TV commercials are drawing everyone from idled actors and directors to crew members and studio operators into an increasingly competitive $5.4 billion market.

"Normally, commercial work is about 15 to 20 percent of the motion picture business but right now it's 100 percent," said Matt Miller, president of the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, which has about 250 commercial production houses as members.

Writers of commercials are not covered under contracts with the Writers Guild of America, the union behind the 10,500 screenwriters in a month-old strike.

The walkout by WGA members has turned into the worst labor crisis to hit the U.S. film and TV industry in 20 years, not only halting production on dozens of TV shows and some high-profile movies, but also putting thousands of non-writing film and TV workers out of work.

Miller said many of these unemployed non-writing workers are bidding for commercials, as are studios, which find themselves with ample unused stages and equipment.

"If you talk with any studio head, they'll talk about what keeps their lights on and a lot of stages are being rented out. It is the bread and butter of the Hollywood community right now and the only thing that's shooting," he said.

Maria Marill, vice president of studio operations at Sony Corp's Sony Pictures Studios, who books stages for the studio, said she was booking more stages for commercial work.

"The television shows are down and we have more stages available and have the opportunity to book more commercials, which we are doing," she said.   Continued...

<p>Comedian, writer and actor Richard Belzer walks with supporters and members of the Writers Guild of America as they picket outside the News Corp building in New York, December 4, 2007. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>