DreamWorks SKG is gearing up its film production unit, according to Peter Bart, editor of Variety, who visited its temporary offices on the Universal backlot.

DreamWorks is the film company created by director Steven Spielberg, music producer David Geffen and former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg. It is housed in Spielberg's Amblin' Productions offices.

Rumors have been circulating that the company was stillborn, since it hasn't produced any pictures in its first year of existence. But just recently, it spent $1 million to buy the movie rights to "Neanderthal," a Michael Crichton-like novel about to be published that tells the story of a long-lost tribe of cave dwellers discovered in a remote area of Russia.

Dreamworks' plans call for it to produce nine pictures a year at a cost of $400 million per year. The company has a large number of writers currently developing scripts. It has raised more than $1 billion through partnerships and other deals.

But before Dreamworks can start producing films, Spielberg has to fulfill his Amblin' commitment of three films next year: "Zorro," directed by Robert Rodriguez and starring Antonio Banderas, "Men in Black," an action comedy with Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, and the sequel to "Jurassic Park," which Spielberg may direct himself. In addition, sequels to "The Flintstones" and "Casper" may be owed through Amblin'.

Dreamworks is also building a new studio facility near Playa Del Rey with sound studios and offices built around an eight-acre lake in a campus-like setting.

Company executives also recently screened the first seven minutes of animation of "Prince of Egypt," its first animated feature film. However, with many more minutes of complex animation ahead it of, the film may not be ready until 1999.

Still, Bart points out, the pace of Dreamworks has increased substantialy over its Amblin' Days. With phones ringing, visitors coming and going, and staff members taking numerous meetings, "no one around here is 'amblin' anymore," says one executive. "We're flat-out running now.