Apr. 13—From the earliest age, Steve Basilone had a deep fascination for TV, films and theatrical performances.
And while the North Hills native didn't know where his career path would lead after graduating in 1999 from North Allegheny High School, he knew he would eventually wind up working in entertainment.
In March, Basilone realized a dream that was decades in the making — the national release of Sony Pictures' "Long Weekend" starring Zoe Chao, Finn Wittrock, Casey Wilson and Damon Wayans Jr.
The romantic comedy written and directed by Basilone is about a down-on-his-luck writer who meets an enigmatic woman who enters his life at the right time.
In addition to a number of roles in TV and films, Basilone has been a writer and producer for the shows "Community" "The Michael J. Fox Show" and "The Goldbergs."
Basilone, 39, said he has fond memories of his early life in Franklin Park and Ingomar.
"It was a wonderful place to grow up," he said. "There were a lot of kids my age and we really had some great times just playing and riding our bikes together."
Basilone said his childhood experiences and family life helped lay the foundation for his future pursuits.
"My parents both worked, so I spent a lot of my free time watching TV," he said. "And they loved to go to the movies, so we went all the time."
The opportunity to easily rent films at the local video shop also helped Basilone develop an early interest in the magic of cinema.
"On Friday nights my parents would rent a movie for themselves and two for me," he said. "I'd watch both of them that night and then watch them again on Saturday and Sunday.
"Those shows and movies I watched as a kid are ingrained in me. Watching and studying them was always my favorite thing to do."
Basilone's first crack at performing came during summers and holidays when he and his cousins gathered.
"I'm an only child, but my mother has nine siblings, so there were 35 first cousins when we got together," he said. "One of the things we loved to do was put on little sketches and comedy routines. We had a fantastic time."
But it wasn't until he joined the Act 1 Theater School in sixth grade that the idea of becoming an entertainer took hold.
"I was pretty awkward and didn't have a lot of confidence," he said."But it was exciting and I started to get pretty good at it. It was the first time I realized that performing was something a person could do for a job. And I began to think this might be an option for me."
Basilone continued to develop his craft by performing in the school plays at North Allegheny and chose Emerson College in Boston, where he majored in theater with a minor in writing.
"There was never a question from my parents about what my backup plan was," he said. "I was committed to pursuing a career in entertainment and they were always very supportive."
During college, Basilone honed his writing, editing and performing skills by forming a touring comedy troupe.
After graduation, he headed to Los Angeles, where he began picking up writing jobs for magazines and other publications and landed a number of commercials and acting roles.
Being paid to write and act not only provided Basilone with a confidence boost, it helped him carve a new career path in entertainment as a writer.
"I was auditioning for all these parts and would get the scripts and say to myself: 'I hope I get to be in this piece of crap," he said. "Half of the scripts were just so bad. I realized that while I may not know what I'm doing writing-wise, I can definitely do something that's as good as what I was seeing."
The fact that that so many poor scripts make it to the screen also helped Basilone decide to focus his attention on writing.
"I'd look at films that weren't very good and see how clunky it was and that it was basically held together with spit and duct tape," he said. "So writing a script began to shift from being this insurmountable thing to a mountain I felt I could climb."
Basilone's decision to focus on writing also was formed by the process actors must endure in order to get work.
"A friend and I were auditioning for all these parts and we just got tired of waiting around to hear if we got the job," he said. "So we decided to write stuff that we could make, that we can appear in."
Writing also helped Basilone make it through serious medical problems he experienced during his 20s that eventually resulted in the removal of his colon.
"I was sick during those years and couldn't rely on my body," he said. "But I could always sit on my couch and write. During that period my writing partner and I turned out and pitched a lot of scripts. That was like graduate school for me. It was a great learning experience."
The idea for "Long Weekend" also emerged from another dark moment in his life — the death of his mother, which he chronicled in the director's comments for the film.
"I wanted to tell an optimistic story showing how catharsis and beauty can come out of even the most dire circumstances. We're all yearning for hope and love...and a bit of magic. Now more than ever," part of the the comment reads.
While Basilone hasn't lived in the Pittsburgh area for more than two decades, he said he still has a strong connection to the area and hopes to someday make a film here.
"It's a great city and the people there have such strong civic pride," he said. "The film industry there has grown and the tax credits available make it very appealing. I would love the opportunity to do something there. My dad would be so thrilled."
Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .