Few people outside of the entertainment industry (and too few younger guys and gals within) were familiar with Ed Limato, the legendary agent who passed away this Saturday after a bout with lung cancer.
I won’t pretend to have known him other than by reputation and an unbelievably brief introduction many years ago, but as you can tell from the remembrances flooding deadline.com and other entertainment blogs, he was, by all accounts, a man who commanded the respect of those he worked with.
Respect isn’t something that simply comes in the envelope with each successive promotion… so in honor of the great man, I’d like to share some of the lessons in earned respect that he leaves behind — the kind that all of us can employ as we work our way up the ladder in whatever corner of the business we’re in.
1) Have Respect for your Position. Limato was known for his spectacular clothes and impeccable grooming at the office, even though he hosted parties barefoot at home. The workplace demands that you carry yourself with dignity, and even in this age of dressing down, we could learn a thing or two from Ed. It’s difficult to earn respect when you look like you dress yourself out of a glovebox, so take pride in your appearance as a professional. Most of our paychecks would need a few extra zeros in order to emulate Limato’s colorful, tailored look, but for now, let’s all just start with a little ironing and dry cleaning.
2) Demonstrate Generosity of Spirit. Mr. Limato did his best to treat those who worked to support him with kindness and appreciation. Until reading web comments this weekend, I had never heard or read that he would rally his co-workers with cries of “Let’s Talk to the Stars,” or that he went to such great lengths to ensure that his assistants were on track to become agents rather than allowing them to sour in a dead-end support position. I have long labored to help my story teams and co-workers advance their careers, and get a real kick out of seeing them go on to run their own shows or get a bump in title here and there, and urge you to do whatever you can to help those around you to advance.
3) Know, Love and Live Your Business. Limato loved to quiz his assistants on classic films. One of the most baffling things you can encounter is an aspiring industry professional who (almost willfully) knows nothing of the history of their business except a handful of big names and popular projects. While some would argue that reality is a young genre, it’s actually been kicking around since the dawn of television. Learn what’s worked before, what made it great, and absorb the lessons the past has to offer. Side benefit: you’ll sound more like you know what you’re doing!