It was during high school when John Iltis discovered film and, while serving in the U.S. Army, it became his preferred leisure pursuit. This all served as excellent preparation for being hired by Balaban & Katz Theatres (now Loews AMC Theatres). Iltis began his career in advertising and public relations in 1965 and, three years later, became Universal Pictures' Midwest Field Representative in Chicago, subsequently operating out of Universal's home office in New York City. He had found his forte.
While residing in London, England during the early seventies, Iltis expanded his area of expertise while representing Rowan & Martin for their Royal Variety performance before Queen Elizabeth II. During this period, he also represented The Supremes, Dave Brubeck, and Zsa Zsa Gabor, among others, and was associate producer for the horror film "Mind the Doors."
Upon his return to Chicago, Iltis was hired to publicize the introduction of Encyclopedia Britannica 3. Having resolved to pursue his advertising and public relations work in the motion picture and entertainment fields, he was appointed Vice President and General Manager of Jack Wodell Associates' Chicago office. In 1977, Iltis purchased the Chicago office from Jack Wodell, and renamed his agency John Iltis Associates (JIA). Under his leadership, JIA represented Walt Disney Productions, Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures, MGM/UA, Samuel Goldwyn, New World Pictures, Orion, the Chicago Film Festival, Steppenwolf Theatre, Travel Light Productions, the Ivanhoe Theatre, Poplar Creek Music Theatre, WLUP-FM Radio, and WCKG-FM Radio.
Iltis expanded his operation to include leisure time advertising and publicity. It was during this period that he worked on projects for the Royal Garden Hotel in London, and also promoted the Chicagoland Recreational Vehicle Association's annual show at the Expo Center in Rosemont, Illinois. JIA was also the public relations and promotion agency for the Grand Opening of Planet Hollywood Restaurant in Chicago.
In 1988, Wodell and Iltis took over a movie and entertainment oriented agency in Denver, renaming it Wodell, Iltis, Sherman Associates. In 1993, John Iltis and David Sikich formed Iltis Sikich Associates, and became producers' representatives. Iltis and Sikich gained particular prominence as sales agents for the acclaimed documentary "Hoop Dreams, and later released "Tie-Died: Rock 'n' Roll's Most Deadicated Fans" and "Lana's Rain" under the ISA Releasing Limited banner.
In addition, Iltis has served as Unit Publicist on the following Chicago movie productions: "Through Naked Eyes" ("Voyeurs"), for ABC-TV, "The Naked Face," "Touch and Go," "Code of Silence," "Jimmy Reardon," "Rent-A-Cop," "Sable" (a TV pilot), "Poltergeist III," "Curly Sue," and "Folks."
Iltis has been involved in various philanthropic organizations, including being Chair of the Gene Siskel Film Center, and Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Theatre School, De Paul University. He has held positions on various Boards of Directors, including being a thirty-year member of Lawyers for the Creative Arts, and a life member of the Publicity Club of Chicago, and the Variety Club of Illinois. He is an advisor to the Independent Film Project and the Independent Writers of Chicago, and was a former advisor to Women in Film. Iltis is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Publicists Guild, and a former member of the Chicago Television Academy and the Broadcast Advertising Club.
After closing his advertising and public relations agency in June 2006, Iltis became a film marketing consultant for Chicago and the Midwest. He represents many independent film distributors, including Emerging Pictures, International Film Circuit, and Strand Releasing.
Developing a forty-seven minute documentary about the Czech Legion during WWI, entitled "Accidental Army," recently became the focus of Iltis and the film's writer/director, Bruce Bendinger. It premiered in the U.S. in 2009. After it was translated into Czech, it had its European premiere in Brno, the Czech Republic, in October 2010. The documentary has since become recognized in the educational community for its portrayal of historic events.
His prime interest today is to counsel independent filmmakers on promoting, advertising, and marketing their products, and to being a sounding board relative to their creative pursuits.