Talks to avert the screenwriters strike in Hollywood are continuing beyond the contract deadline.

The Writer's Guild of America's contract with producers had been due to expire at 12.01am Los Angeles Time (8am GMT).

"The talks are continuing and we're working very hard to reach an agreement," said Cheryl Rhoden, spokeswoman for the WGA told reporters during a brief news conference shortly the contract deadline had passed.

She revealed no other details about the talks. Many now assume that the deadline will be extended on a day-to-day basis to allow for continued negotiations.

Common wisdom has it that if the writers' strike is averted, a devastating actors' strike, which could follow if actors and producers' negotiations starting next week (May 10) fail, could also be averted.

The outcome of the talks is difficult to predict. However, the mood in Hollywood has swung in the past few weeks from virtual certainty that writers and actors were heading for a strike to a more calm atmosphere in which both sides were being seen to take negotiations very seriously.