Whom You Know Interview
With Robert Sayegh

Robert Sayegh, President and Founder of R World Media, Co-Owner of The Greenwich Street Tavern in Tribeca Our Coverage Sponsored by Stribling and Associates

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Robert Sayegh is the President and Founder of R World Media, in charge of the company's creation and development of new programming and films, casting, talent management, and day-to-day operations. Previously, over the past twenty years, he has assisted in, recruited for, and supervised almost all facets of production management, casting, and show development. He has been a part of many writing and pitch teams, too, including those presenting to Sesame Street, ESPN2's Motorsports Division, True Entertainment, Scripps Networks, PBS, Acorn Media and The Cooking Channel where he has written one-sheets, log lines, treatments, scripts, interstitials, and show bibles.

Most recently, Rob has wrapped on and is in post production for a short film he wrote and Executive Produced called BEYOND THE RUSH. The private screening is slated for June in New York City. In the past, he has been hired as the Casting Director for Lifetime Television & MLB Networks, and has Produced and Written for Tru TV, MTV2, E! Network, PBS, NBC, Discovery Channel, HGTV, and still acts as a creative consultant for Kindle Creative, the creative division of Mobile Video Production. During his freelance career as a Producer/Writer, he has worked on shows/events such as The VMA's, Fashionably Loud, VH1's Divas, Woodstock '99, Fairway to Heaven Golf Tournament, NBC's The Marriage Ref, E! Network's Ice Loves Coco, MLB Network's Fan Cave, and the James Beard Award Winning Culinary program, Food Trip with Todd English.

This Brooklyn-born writer has also written for various sports and entertainment magazines over the years, as well, interviewing people such as Ed Bradley ("60 Minutes), Tom Gilroy (Writer/Director, "Spring Forward"), Dres from Blacksheep, Brandon Tierney (CBS Sports Radio/That Other Pre-Game Show), Don La Greca (New York Rangers/ESPN Radio) and Reischea Canidate (ESPN First Take).

Robert is the author of The Dividing Line published in 2005, which he has adapted into a screenplay and is currently shopping for financing. Rob graduated from The George Washington University, attended the Miami Ad School, where he studied copywriting, invented a pet product, and was instrumental in attaining trademarks and patents for that invention. He is also one of the owners of The Greenwich Street Tavern located in Tribeca, Manhattan where he is involved in the day-to-day operations and acts as the marketing manager. Robert is represented by Dan Sheldon who works at Media Artists Group. We are so pleased to present Robert Sayegh as our latest Mover and Shaker! Peachy Deegan interviewed R.J. for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: How do you define R World Media?

Robert Sayegh:
R World Media, is a full service production house, which covers all aspects of the business – from creation, to development to casting to production, editing, marketing and talent representation. Me and my team, who are comprised of a limitless amount of permanent and freelance professionals have over 80 years of television and film experience and believe in hard work, honesty, being up front with our clients and seeing how it would be best to meet their needs.

What makes a story worth telling?

I'm not compelled to write because the story "needs to be told." Simply, whatever keeps my interest while writing – those are the stories worth telling. Because I feel like if I'm not interested in what I'm writing, the audience won't be either.

What are the secrets to telling a story correctly?

Man, if I knew what the secrets were to telling a story, I would have been published a long time ago and my movies would be block-buster hits. Who knows? What I do know is that when I have an idea and I start to write it, what and where I thought that story was going isn't where it winds up. The characters take you where the story needs to go – not you. And that was a really fun lesson I learned when I wrote my first novel.

What would surprise the common person about putting one of your productions together?

I think what would surprise people most about putting my productions together is how many aspects of the production in which I am actually involved. I call myself a writer because that's my passion, that's what I love to do – that's what takes me away from this world and stress and makes me truly happy. But because I've produced for so long and casted and scouted locations. done budgets, tagged scripts, production managed, was a 1st AD, and have even sat in on edits, I've pretty much run the full gamut of a production. I'm not just one of those writers who says, "I'm a writer, here's my script, now make it happen." I like to be involved in my productions. And that's not to say I'm a micro-manager because I'm not. But it's my creation, I have a vision in my head, and I like to be a part of that. How many people can have the amazing opportunity to create a totally separate world in their heads and then be able to make them a reality? Plus the whole process is so much fun.

What is the storyline behind Beyond the Rush?

Shattered by a lifetime of isolation and self loathing due to his mentally ill mother's abuse, a son's obsession to reunite with her leads his life spiraling uncontrollably into an abyss of darkness.

What should everyone know about Beyond the Rush?

There are a ton of interesting things that people should know about BTR, but I think one of the coolest things is that this short film is based off a story I wrote in 1992. We were supposed to write a senior thesis paper for my English class about the origins of the English language, and I asked my teacher (who was a published author) if I could write a short story in lieu of that. He said yes, gave me an A+ on it, and for the first time in my young life, made me realize that maybe I could be a writer.

How can one see Beyond the Rush?

At the moment that I am conducting this interview, you can't. We are in the final editing process and hope to screen it here in NYC at the Roxy Hotel at the beginning of June. From there, people should be able to download it from YouTube, Vimeo, my websites (robertsayegh.com and R Worldmedia.com) and all the other online media outlets. Besides going through the independent film festival circuit, we plan on getting licensing deals with IFC, Sundance Channel, DirectTV and all other networks that air shorts. We also have some investors interested in possibly helping us to make this into a feature length film.

What shows have you enjoyed working on the most and why?

God, over the past years, there have been so many shows that I loved working on based on the mere fact that I got to see every band known to man. But my two favorites were 1) Food Trip with Todd English. It was amazing because I got to travel to Malaysia and make a food show. We were there for 10 days, and I think I slept one night; the rest was on buses inbetween destinations. We landed in Penang, travelled to Ipoh and wound up in Kuala Lumpur. Never in my life did I think I'd be on the exact opposite side of the world in Malaysia, let alone making a cooking show with a James Beard Award winning top chef. Todd and our crew were amazing, and it was an experience that will never be replicated again. 2) The second was The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. There's really nothing else to say about this except that after the year I worked, they disallowed all access passes to everyone except the VIPs. Oh and smoking a cigarette with Adrianna Lima before she was the face of Victoria's Secret was pretty awesome. She was really cool and down to earth.

What do you like to eat most at Greenwich Street Tavern and why?

That's a pretty tough question to answer and I'm not just saying so because I'm one of the owners. But if I were to pick one item that I like to eat most it's the Tavern Burger. It's got fried onions, Spicy Jack cheese and our homemade Chipotle Mayo. It comes on a buttered Brioche bun and basically melts in your mouth. I usually get a side of Mac and Cheese with it, too, and go from there. The messier, the better.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?

That's easy. Without my Mother and her constant positive reinforcement, advice and support, there's no way I'd be where I am today. She was my best friend and my biggest fan. But she wasn't one of those parents who praised everything that I did – she was very honest. She was always the first person I gave any of my drafts to, and I remember asking her once what she thought, and she told me that she didn't feel like thinking last night, so she read her other book. I always smile when I think of that. She saw the years and years of struggle, and would always tell me to stop being so hard on myself. She used to tell me, "Every once in awhile you should stop and pat yourself on the back." When I feel myself stressing or putting too much pressure on myself, I remember those words and follow her directions. It works every time.

What are you proudest of and why?

I am proudest of the fact that I have been able to keep the values and morals that my parents raised and instilled in me. I come from a pretty blue-collar family and although my dad worked his way up the corporate latter to become COO of Bulova Watch Company and my Mom was an RN, they both came from meager beginnings. My Jido and Teta immigrated from Alepo Syria and Beirut Lebanon and my mom's family was from Poland. My grandfather on my mother's side was NYPD and my uncle was a firefighter. They never had any money growing up. So both my parents worked hard for everything they ever had and then were able to raise their children without a fear in the world about money – at least not the fears they grew up with. The older I get, the more I respect that, and just can't believe how they did it. There's a story that sums up my Dad and how his actions influenced the way I view and treat people – I worked at Bulova downstairs in the paper processing section for the summer before my freshman year of college and I remember everyday, he, being the only top-floor executive who would walk through the hallways and say hi to everyone; from the janitor, to the time piece engineers, to the security guards, to the workers before he went up to his office. And one of the first things I remember hearing from the women, even before they knew I was his son, was what a great guy he was and respectful and that he always took the time to say hi and see how everyone was doing. My parents taught me to be kind, honest, respectful and loyal. Being able to hold true to all those values and make them proud makes me the most proud.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?

The smaller dreams that I am making come true now are all leading to the big dream – to film my feature based off my book, The Dividing Line.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?

Unfortunately, me, as an individual, I have won none. But a few of the shows and films I've worked on have been nominated and won some awards. I'm hoping that Beyond the Rush will break that dry spell.

What one word best describes you and why?

Loyal. I have always stuck by the people who have stuck by me, and I have even stuck by those who haven't stuck by me to a point… I have been loyal to a fault, and I remember getting upset as I got older and my Mom would ask me why, and I used to complain about people and why they don't do this and why they say this, but don't follow through. And she used to tell me to stop putting such high expectations on people and you won't be disappointed so often. But that's the way I am with myself. I am very hard on myself and expect a lot, so of course, that transferred to the way I viewed other people. It took me a long time to realize that most people aren't like me. My family and what little true friends I have left, are most important to me, and I'd do anything for them – as long as I physically or monetarily can. If I tell you I'm gonna do something, unless forces beyond my control come into play, you better believe that I will do it.

What do you take your sense of identity from?

I take my sense of identity from not only my parents, but I think a lot from my grandparents. Most of them died when I was younger, but I was with them a lot growing up. My grandfather, the Polish cop, was sort of nuts and when my Mom used to drop me off at their house on her way to working in the hospital, he and I used to have so much fun. He'd put his gun on the table, mix both of us Sanka instant coffee, he'd smoke clove cigarettes and my Babci (grandma in Polish) would make us Bolgna and eggs. We'd watch the Price is Right and he'd tell me the craziest stories about his life – like how he used to ski with no skis and just roll his toes up. I was 4. My Jido (grandpa in Arabic) was also sort of nuts, but all in a good way. He was the cook in that family. He made all the Arabic food we ever ate from scratch and even grew grape leaves in his back yard in downtown Brooklyn. I know in my heart that if me and my grandfathers were the same age, we'd be best friends. I just know it.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?

There are countless amazing places to be in Manhattan, but my favorite place to be is on the West Side Highway, walking on the water between Harrison's Street and my apartment in Battery Park. We grew up going to the South Shore of Long Island and being beach bums as kids, so I have an affinity for the water. Plus it's cathartic.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?

Man, since I don't really shop much, this is a hard one. I order online a lot. I'd have to say Eva's Health Food Shop. I love going in and talking to the guys and girls who work there about the newest supplements. They sell everything protein, too, and when I'm there, it means that I'm in super health-mode, so I'm always in the right frame of mind. Plus their Falafels are the best in the city.

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?

If I could hire anyone, I'd have to say it'd be my cousin, Mike Owen. He's my writing partner and the person who I go to with script or story issues and he always solves them. Plus we laugh all the time.

What is your favorite drink?

Hmmmm… That's like asking a monkey what type of banana he likes. LOL. But seriously, I really enjoy a Maker's Mark Manhattan straight up before a good meal.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?

I have a few that I really enjoy going to, but my favorite is Il Giglio. It used to be down on Warrant Street in Tribeca, but they had to close because of the owner of the building. I'm still trying to find where they re-opened.

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature?

I don't really have a favorite Manhattan book or character in Manhattan Literature, but I do have one from Brooklyn, where I grew up. It's called "One Kiss Led to Another" and it was written by my good friend's Dad, Harris Dulany. Part of his book takes place where I grew up in Cobble Hill, before it became one of the most expensive places to live and the celebrity hang out it is now. He was sort of my second Dad growing up, and he was also the only other Pittsburgh Steeler fan I knew who would always sit with me and watch them when they were in the playoffs. He was instrumental in my baseball development as a kid and I miss him everyday. He was also the first real author who I looked up to and knew and would always ask for advice.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?

I'm gonna go back a couple years and say that I would have liked to have been Derek Jeter for a day when he was playing. Having played baseball my whole life and through college and dreaming of becoming a big leaguer since I was 5, I would have loved to step onto Yankee Stadium's field as the starting shortstop and play a game in his shoes. I can't imagine the rush that he felt everyday of his life just knowing that when he woke up that he was going be playing baseball for a living.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?

I donate money to St. Jude's Children's Hospital every month. It's not a lot and I wish I could do more, and God willing, once one of my movie or show deals goes through, I will be able to, but I've always had this bond with children. Maybe because mentally I'm still a kid and they recognize that, who knows. It's a terrible thing to think that one's childhood can be robbed by this hideous disease they call cancer. I would hope that by the end of my days here on earth, that I could have done so much to help fight this and make every child's life who has been stricken with this disease better, that they would want to name something in that arena after me. And not for ego or narcissistic reasons, but just maybe to open up other peoples' eyes to see that we as individuals can really make a difference if we want.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?

I'd have to say that my best Manhattan athletic experience didn't happen in Manhattan and didn't exactly happen to me. It took place at 161st in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium in the fall of 1996. The Yankees finally won an amazing comeback World Series vs the Atlanta Braves and brought the championship back to NY after 17 years. That started an 18-year run of total dominance that I don't think I'll see again in my lifetime.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?

This sounds a little strange, but I hope it makes sense. I'm born and raised in Brooklyn, went to high school in Manhattan and now live here in the city, and my favorite thing to do here that I can do no where else is leave. I truly love the feeling of getting out of this insanity that sometimes is overwhelming and missing it so much that I want to come back. Because if you ask any TRUE New Yorker what one thing they love most about NY it's being able to come back and calling it home.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?

That's easy, I'd give up everything I have right now if I could have one more dinner with my mom. Judy was the best. I miss her food, I miss her advice, I miss her unconditional friendship and honesty. I miss laughing with her, and I even miss our fights. We were very alike so sometimes we butted heads. But my Mom was really funny. We all get our sense of humor from her. I think I speak for any of my friends and my younger brother and his friends when I say if we could have Judy's chicken cutlets, her Russian dressing and homemade mac and cheese just one more time, we'd be able to die peacefully.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?

I love to look at art, but I'm very particular and I don't really have a best art experience per se. I worked with MTV and VH1 for years and got to see some amazing concerts with some legendary bands, but I'd have to say that one of the best musical experiences I had in NYC wasn't even at a performance. I was working as a PA on Julie Taymor's Across the Universe, and we were shooting a huge production across the street from Radio City Music Hall, with dancers, performers and a ton of extras. Because the movie was a story set to the Beatles soundtrack, over the loud speakers, they were playing a song that was performed by Paul McCartney. On that day, my job was to block pedestrians from crossing in front of the shoot, so I was stationed about 10 yards off the corner of 50th and 6th avenue. And when I unblocked the walkway and allowed the pedestrians to pass through, I couldn't believe my eyes – pushing a baby stroller like any other father in NYC was Paul McCartney. We just looked at each other, I smiled and gave him the, "you must be kidding me" face, he winked back and kept walking. I don't think anyone else saw him. It was as though he and I were in this magical vacuum. He went on his way and I held up the next group of people.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?

Every month I donate to The Wounded Warrior Fund and St. Jude's Children Hospital. Like I said, I wish I could do more and will. I have also volunteered at the Cobble Hill Nursing Home and nursing homes throughout the city for New York Cares. I have an affinity for senior citizens and/or older people. I've been to hospitals a lot with my mother when she was sick, and it was so depressing to see how many older people just laid there with no visitors, no one to talk to… It's unfortunate that a lot of these people are just left at these facilities, and although some of them have dementia, just minimal interaction gets their spirits up. I feel like I've tried to give back to the world, but I have a lot more to give – and will.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan?

I think that New Yorkers get a bad rap - that we're rude, pushy, and just basically, unfriendly. Now it might appear that way to some, but I think that our friendliness is underrated. The concept that you are paid more here than other cities is overrated. I worked in Production for years and although my title kept going up, my salary never matched it. There are some professions that pay you handsomely, but the idea that your average salary here is more or even comes close to covering the out-of-control rents, is a joke.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite WhomYouKnow.com​ column and what do you like about it?

I'm gonna be totally biased here and say that I like your Restaurant Review Sections: Peachy's Picks and Terrific Takeout. Being that I am owner of Greenwich Street Tavern in Tribeca and you have been so kind to come review our establishment twice, reading through your other commentaries and seeing what great eateries are out there, always sparks my interest.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?

I think what people should know is that I have been pursuing a writing career since I was 21 when I finished my first novel. In-between, I went to Advertising School in Miami, invented a pet product, licensed its intellectual properties, bartended, started a few companies, had numerous set backs, been knocked down more times than I can count - lost friends, family and girlfriends along the way on my pursuit to make a living doing what I am passionate about, and throughout it all, I have stayed true to my core values. I have finally been able to surround myself with positive, non-toxic people who want the best for me. I've learned that I'm stronger than I thought I was and to "never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do." That's a quote on a card by Jackson Brown Jr. my Mom gave me that I keep on my bookcase where I can see it everyday. I am appreciative and know just how lucky I am to be in the position I am, and that there are so many people out there who are FAR, FAR less fortunate than me. From a young age, I have always felt I was put here to do more and make a real difference. By the time I leave this earth, I hope to do so.

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