For more than five months, I stood shoulder to shoulder with my union, the Writers Guild of America. Our protest has brought to its knees a flawed industry that depends on our creativity. Our struggle, and that of the artists at SAG-AFTRA, was not just about insulating ourselves from AI and other disruptive technologies; we demanded recognition and fair compensation for all of us, not just the stars. CEOs complain about financial problems and tout profitless balance sheets, but the truth is that executive salaries are rising higher than ever. Meanwhile, with the skyrocketing cost of living in cities like New York and Los Angeles, so many writers, actors and crew have turned to side gigs like Uber driving to scrape together an annual income, echoing the challenges faced workers in industries plagued by corporate ethics. that idolizes short-term profiteering and unchecked greed.
But in my case, corporate greed is a snake that bites twice. In June, forty days after the strike, a notice of termination appeared on the door of my rent-stabilized apartment in Brooklyn. My new landlord is exploiting my bicoastal career and two years of COVID lockdowns as a pretext to evict my family from our home of twenty years, even though I’ve never missed a rent payment through it all. I’m far from alone: Since 2021, more than 10,000 similar cases have flooded New York’s housing courts, with landlords using the fallout from the pandemic to sidestep affordable housing laws, allowing me and so many artists to build careers in New York City.
So in July, then Deadline published an article in which an unnamed Hollywood executive suggested extending the strike until writers “start losing their homes,” it felt like a personal attack. Such insensitivity reveals the rot within corporate culture that extends far beyond Hollywood and harkens back to a system that ignores the lives it impacts.
As an Iranian immigrant who started working at age 14, I have navigated the tumultuous waters of the media and entertainment industry without a financial safety net or family guidance. I chose passion over safety and discovered – despite constant warnings from loved ones and the implicit feedback from the industry – that my outsider perspective and “otherness” were my superpowers, not weaknesses.
By conventional measures, my journey in Hollywood has been marked by remarkable success. In the past four years alone, I have produced two critically acclaimed seasons of primetime TV (CBS’). United States of Al) and even wrote, directed and produced my first feature film during the pandemic, which premiered at the New York Film Festival and is screening in valued museums around the world. I have even received generous grants from notable foundations, allowing me to support and uplift artists from historically marginalized communities, giving them opportunities that I never had.
And yet, at age 50, I am confronted with a grim reality: After 148 days of strike action, I am broke and on the brink of deportation.
It was with an overwhelming sense of relief and joy that I read Sunday evening’s email from the WGA negotiating committee about a pending deal with the AMPTP to my wife and two sons (ages 10 and 6), who had come with me to various pickets . the summer. Relief that it’s all over, and joy because we stand strong for our career and the industry we love. But when we stopped jumping for joy, I was surprised to find a worry-induced uneasiness lingering in the pit of my stomach.
Like long COVID-19, we are only now beginning to see the true impact of these strikes. The uncomfortable reality of a strike in Hollywood is that when it’s all over, going back to work for the vast majority of writers, actors and crew means resuming the fight for their next gig, with no guarantee of success. income is in sight. That’s par for the course for writers these days. Even the lucky few (myself included), with development deals or projects that have halted production, will re-enter the rat race of rushing to set up future projects to avoid falling into a slump.
Right now, as a deal is finalized, we must remember that everything bad in Hollywood disproportionately impacts BIPOC artists without established careers. BIPOC artists are already active in an industry that often marginalizes their voices. They are the hardest hit by these strikes and will suffer the consequences for months and years to come. The systemic barriers they face, from limited access to industrial networks to media misrepresentation, are compounded by the challenges of insecure employment and financial instability.
Some of my most heartwarming experiences came at WGA meetings in the early days leading up to the strikes. On two occasions, two senior writers – both white men with secure pensions and a healthy retirement to look forward to (thanks to previous strike actions) – declared to thousands of members and leaders that they were not fighting for themselves, but for the new generation of writers, many of whom come from historically marginalized communities. These were moments I will never forget.
For me, the struggle to keep a roof over my family has underscored the vulnerability that success can mask. When the strike began, I appreciated the WGA Strike Fund and the Entertainment Community Fund as a safety net for more vulnerable colleagues. But two weeks ago, after being warned that I would expect eviction papers and a costly legal battle in early October, I filed my own fund applications. So even as we feel relieved about the strike’s end, our family dinners now also involve bracing our boys for the inevitable knock on the door or tap on the shoulder, followed by the dreaded, “You’ve been served.”
With this very real threat looming over our heads, some may wonder – as has been insinuated in some recent articles and talk – was the strike worth it? My wife and I are faced with a similar question: whether it is worth bearing the costs of fighting to keep our apartment when we could accept the landlord’s meager payout offer and move out. These are difficult questions that I could not have anticipated a year ago, nor would I have been able to answer at this particular time in my life.
The strike reminded me of a universal truth: our collective well-being requires investments in people, not profits – lest we risk sidelining the very people who build the industries and communities needed to sustain our economy to hold. The solidarity I experienced at those early WGA meetings that forced the AMPTP back to the negotiating table is about to be put to the test as business as usual resumes. If anything, I’m hopeful because in the last five months of the strike I’ve felt a spark of something new, something bigger than writers and Hollywood, something that points to a global struggle facing all artists and workers.
I am determined to nurture that spark and fight for a future where the value of every employee is recognized. Do I regret the strike? Should I leave my home and community for a “buyout”? I don’t do that and I won’t do that. Not because I am privileged and can afford it; neither could be further from the truth. On the contrary, after months of solidarity, it is abundantly clear that righteous success will require our deepest vulnerability and unwavering resolve long after the headlines have moved on. This is the spirit in which I share my story. We may have won the battle, but true success requires that we continue to fight together for opportunity and dignity for all, and create space for stories that reflect our diverse experiences and shared humanity.
Only united can we foster a society where all our dreams have room to blossom and blossom. In the meantime, I hope that you will remember those who will suffer from the struggle they have faced over the past five months, and that you will wish my family the best of luck in our struggle to preserve our home and community of the past twenty years .
Mahyad Tousi is a working writer, filmmaker and founder of Starfish, a hybrid social enterprise committed to empowering underserved artists by funding their ideas and nurturing their entrepreneurial visions. Visit for more information www.starfish-fund.org.