Jason Momoa News exclusively interviewed Dennys Ilic on Jason Momoa and Frontier…
With bases in Los Angeles, New York, and Melbourne, renowned photographer Dennys Ilic carts his camera equipment—and keen eye—around the globe, producing dazzling, contemporary and artistic images for his dynamic clientele. Dennys’ photographic vision is uniquely versatile, and this versatility is reflected in the staggering array of clients served: major motion pictures; high-end magazines; and actors and actresses from screens big and small.
Equally skilled at A-list editorial and celebrity portraiture, Dennys Ilic is perhaps best known for edgy and soulful images that capture the true essence of his subject matter. Thus, his photography has been commissioned by a number of major film studios, including Warner Bros. Pictures, Roadshow, United Pictures International (UPI) and Newline Cinema.
Dennys Ilic’s client list reads like a red carpet roll call: Jessica Biel, Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Eric Bana, Jada Pinkett Smith, Keanu Reeves, David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy) Will Smith, Wesley Snipes, Joel Silver (producer of The Matrix), Miranda Otto, and Sam Neill—to name just a few. But in recent years, Dennys Ilic has been working with Jason Momoa, taking photos of the cast and crew of his Netflix and Discovery Canada show, Frontier. You could call him an embedded photographer, braving the ice and snow of Newfoundland, British Columbia, Canada to document Momoa’s Declan Harp as he wages war on the Hudson Bay Company and the fur-trading industry of 1700s Canada.
Jason Momoa News had the opportunity to talk to Dennys Ilic about Jason Momoa, Frontier, his philosophy on photography and other projects, including his friendship with Edward James Olmos, photographing the cast of Battlestar Galactica and a secret upcoming project with Jason.
How did you first meet up with Jason Momoa and start working with him?
I first met Jason when I was presenting at Oz Comic-Con in Australia many years ago. A mutual friend (one of my dearest friends) and actor Ryan Robins introduced me to him. We ran into each other many times after that including in London during London Film and Comic-Con where he, my publishing partner Ken Meere and i had beers at 10am while waiting for our car to the convention centre lol.
What was your first impression?
I found Jase, while a very kind and inclusive human, to be hyper focused on the projects and art that he wants to create. If you can talk his language as a creator then he will suck you into his orbit like a high gravity planet and not let go.
What is it like on set when you are shooting photography for Frontier?
Damn Cold. But a great family of people both in front of and behind the camera. It was the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done. Dealing with rain, snow, ice and crazy-low temperatures. Rope-Climbing to locations hundreds of feet, snowmobiling across mountains at night in blizzards for hours…. i pretty much had everything i’ve never done before thrown at me. One saving grace was that with the amazing Leica Cameras i was using, i could shoot unfettered by not worrying about my camera equipment failing and just concentrate on surviving.
Is there a quality or essence to Jason Momoa that you try to capture in your still photography?
Jason is a unique human. There is a raw purity to him and an essence that is quite elusive and difficult to tap into and capture. He is not remotely effected by his stardom and as such, not for want of a better word, a “poser”. There is a strong and refined sense of family, commitment and loyalty encased in amazing talent. Tapping into the kind and gentle soul contained in a somewhat intimidating frame of a man is the wonderful dichotomy that i search for in my shots of Jason.
What is your approach to documenting a show like Frontier, considering the filming locations and production style?
It’s pretty simple for me. I am extremely passionate about the film and television industry and good story telling. What i found with Frontier in particular and most recently my work on Star Trek Discovery is that these productions were of no compromise. They were “all in” in every aspect of production, from their fine and totally committed cast and crew to the writing and the artisans who built the props and sets. When you are surrounded by excellence of this caliber its hard not to strive for the best in yourself and attack the work as if your life depended on it. Frontier was shot in incredibly extreme conditions that were quite challenging, physically, mentally and practically (for the camera gear). My approach was to become a 100% a part of the family and do all i could to honor their work.
We’ve seen Jason a lot with a camera. Is he learning from you or is it more of a give and take, given how talented you both are?
Jason is a passionate artist in many worlds, not just photography. It’s rather annoying how great he seems to be at everything he applies himself to. With anything in this world i believe you can never stop learning. I learn so much from my own assistants let alone other professionals. With Jason it was definitely a give and take situation. He’s extremely passionate about photography and moving pictures and sees things from a very unique perspective.
What is your approach to photography in general and has this changed over time?
I started taking pictures of building and bands. This tends to be both distant and a little clinical. Over time as i began to do shoots for individuals and actors i developed a love for connection with individuals. Photography allowed me to focus on one human in a very personal manner. you have to gain the trust of that person and be able to trust them. In that way it becomes a very intimate artistic relationship which is very rewarding.
How did you end up getting into photography for movies and television?
I actually was working in retail selling cameras in the early 2000’s. One of my regular customers was a publicist for Roadshow / Warner and i would always look after her with great prices. We became friends and she would give me tickets to red carpet premiers. One day i purchased a camera from the store i worked in and started taking snaps at the events and sending them to the film distributor. They liked what i was doing so much they decided to hire me as their official photographer for major film launches. Fast forward a couple of years and the next thing i know i’m working one on one with Daniel Radcliffe for the publicity shoots surrounding the Harry Potter franchise which i did over a 5 year period.
You’ve done photography work for so many major motion pictures, like Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, The Matrix. Is there a favorite memory or experience from this?
I think working with Daniel Radcliffe will always be a highlight. Somehow being a bit of a country boy and finding myself working on the biggest film franchise on the planet within a few years of buying my first digital stills camera was quite surreal. Especially considering Dan was such a grounded, kind and intelligent young man and Incredibly focused on his art. I would always find myself challenged to keep up with him intellectually even when talking to him at the age of 13. I still treasure a collection of his amazing poetry he gifted me when he was 15yo.
How does Battlestar Galactica fit into your collective life experience so far?
Director / Writer / Producer Micheal Rymer invited me to visit the set of BSG when they were filming the last season. While walking around the various sound stages in slack-jawed awe and in total jet lag on the first day i was there i felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Edward James Olmos. In that raspy and iconic voice of his he said “i hear you’re a photographer …. I need you to do me a favor” I grew up adoring EJO in every show he was in, especially my all-time favorite film Bladerunner. I mean i love him so much I would go into getting singer songwriter Whitton to cover the only vocal song in the original Bladerunner “One More Kiss, Dear” as a duet with Eddie. The result is amazing! Anyway Eddie charged me with taking the last ever cast and crew image of the show. This was a very overwhelming thing to do as it involved me rounding up people and telling them what to do on the first day that i was on a set as a total stranger. I was more prone to be escorted off the sound stage by security then i was to get that shot. But i did achieve this for Eddie. After that it was EJO that charged me with documenting what would become known as the Last Days of Battlestar Galactica. I have over 10,000 never before seen images which are going to be a book one day! Every time someone would question my presence on set the answer would be “Eddie says its ok” and that person would slowly back away lol. Since then EJO and i have been the best of friends. He is the opening spread of my book “Men of Science Fiction” and I would do absolutely anything for him. Because of that experience i am so thrilled to be about to list pretty much the entire BSG cast and my dearest of friends not to mention Ron D. Moore, Stephen McNutt and Michael Taylor.
Tell us about your current projects. What should we be keeping an eye out for?
We have a Star Trek Discovery coffee table book that i’m working on at the moment. I’m also working on some exciting new projects with Leica Camera that i can’t really say anything about at the moment.
Any chance of a future collaboration with Jason Momoa for something other than Frontier?
We are currently in discussion about something super exciting as i write but its a bit early to talk about! I adore working with Jason. I often get worn down by my workload and need the recharge that just being around him gives a person with that incredible passion and energy of his. Its like being around an active Tesla coil. Your hair just stands on end with excitement lol.
Talk about how you use social media and what your favorite platform is?
My fave platform is Instagram. I love being about to post stories that evaporate after 24 hours. I take a bit of a tongue in cheek attitude towards myself and my work so i love all the new video and streaming abilities in Instagram. I also love to work to support all the artists that i love and their causes through this platform. You will often see me using music by artists i admire etc.
Check out our Frontier filmography page and keep it tuned here for more information on Frontier, Jason Momoa and what Dennys Ilic is up to next!
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