Stephanie Davis Kleinman French
Brian Volk-Weiss is an Emmy-nominated film producer, founder and CEO of The Nacelle Company and subsidiary Comedy Dynamics, owner of over 2,000 toys, Star Wars fanatic, and last, but not least, a University of Iowa alum.
From the moment he saw Star Wars at age 3, Volk-Weiss knew he wanted to go into the entertainment industry. He learned that the movie’s Death Star was a small model, created by those who worked in film, and knew he wanted to be part of that world.
Volk-Weiss knew from the start that he would spend most of his life in New York or Los Angeles. At 18 years old, the teen from Queens picked a college where he felt he would have a good experience.
The decision landed him in the heart of the Midwest.
“Deciding to go to Iowa instead of any of the other schools I could’ve gone to is, I truly believe, the second or third-best decision of my life,” Volk-Weiss said.
Volk-Weiss studied communications before graduating from the UI in 1998. He said he made many good memories at Iowa, like watching documentaries at the Englert Theatre, or the first day of shooting for his first student film, Identity Crash.
Nothing impacted Volk-Weiss quite like two of his favorite instructors, experimental filmmakers Johanna Hibbard and Meg Jamieson, who taught at the UI until 2000.
Volk-Weiss said he arrived at the UI as an action-movie enthusiast — the more guns and explosions, the better. Hibbard and Jamieson respected his taste, he said, but taught him how much more there was to a film, like heart and passion. With their guidance, he learned how to build a storyline.
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Volk-Weiss’ learning experience at the UI turned out to be more about building people skills and making memories than heavy class loads and pulling all-nighters to study. He said he has college friends in Minneapolis and Chicago, who he often runs new ideas past.
“Iowa trained me to be a good human being, and a well-rounded human being, and gave me really good experiences that — when I got to LA at 22 instead of 18 — I think Iowa did a lot for me so that I didn’t crash and burn,” Volk-Weiss said.
Volk-Weiss moved to Los Angeles six days after graduating from Iowa, and immediately bought several Hollywood newspapers and magazines with “job wanted” sections upon his arrival.
He said he clipped at least 500 job openings to the back wall of his new apartment, taking up the whole space. Three categories existed on the wall: jobs available, jobs he had spoken to someone about, and jobs he had already gotten. He was employed within eight days. The job? A production assistant on the film Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks.
In 1999, Volk-Weiss worked for a small company that was bought by a much larger company called Big Wave in 2003. By 2017, he built his own large department within Big Wave, which is now the Nacelle Company — the largest independent comedy production and distribution company. The company has worked on projects including The Toys That Made Us, The Movies That Made Us, and a special on Ulysses S. Grant on the History channel.
His goals for the company now include creating films that people are as passionate about as he is Star Wars.
Volk-Weiss was recently nominated for his first Emmy for the production of Netflix docuseries Down to Earth with Zac Efron.