While he grew to love the name, it took a while.
These days, “Bellagio” “Fabio” and the occasional “Brazierio” are more common mispronunciations.
As fate would have it, he married a woman whose first name is “Joke.” So introductions at parties are now twice as fun.
As an added bonus, there’s just one team in Hollywood that goes by “Joke and Biagio.” Makes them easy to Google.
Biagio was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He grew up in and around the blue-collar suburb of Parma. The mixing pot of ethnicities and personalities inspired Biagio to tell stories. He wrote about his world, and began winning creative writing contests in grade school. Teachers encouraged him to pursue writing, directing, and acting.
At Parma Senior High School, Biagio penned the play Me and Grandma. He directed and acted in the autobiographical production put up at the high school. The play went on to win the Marilyn Bianci Young Playwrights Festival. It was later produced at Cleveland’s Dobama Theater.
After high school, Biagio studied theater and film at Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Community College. While there he earned a living acting in television commercials and directing videos for the Department of Public Safety. He also wrote plays for the D.A.R.E. program (Drug Abuse Resistance Education.) Biagio was then accepted to the school of Theater, Film, and Television at UCLA. On the third day of school he met his future wife and business partner, Joke Fincioen.
Together they made a feature film version of Biagio’s play Me and Grandma. They produced and directed the movie between their junior and senior years of college. Biagio also acted in the film.
Biagio Messina on Kenan & Kel
Me and Grandma screened in festivals. It also helped Biagio earn an audition for the Nickelodeon sitcom Kenan & Kel. He was cast as Marc Cram, Kenan’s geeky next-door neighbor (type casting!) Biagio joined seasons three and four of the hit teen sitcom.
Other acting jobs included Nickelodeon’s All That and NBC’s medical drama ER. He considers the highlight of his acting career meeting The Coen Brothers during a callback audition. Joel and Ethan inspired Biagio with their kind, welcoming demeanor and creative vision. It’s something Biagio works to emulate on his own productions.
Moving Behind the Camera
Joke and Biagio undertook more projects, and Biagio moved behind the camera full time. Together with his then fiancé Joke, the duo formed what would become Joke Productions. A crew of two, they filmed everything from local commercials to video game trailers. Backstage West named their company as one of the best to film and edit actors’ demo reels. Videomaker Magazine called them digital video “gurus.” Joke and Biagio also produced independent documentaries.
During that time, Biagio edited hundreds of hours of independent film and video projects. He became proficient with AVID, Adobe Premiere, and Apple Final Cut Pro. Biagio also created 2D and 3D graphics and visual effects for paying clients.
Love and Marriage
Biagio convinced Joke to marry him in 2001. It was by far one of the three greatest days of his life. The other two were the birth of his daughter and of his son.
Having kids has also expanded Biagio’s awareness of the entertainment landscape. He used to binge watch shows like The Wire. These days it’s more like marathon sessions of Caillou, Super Why, and Frozen.
After several-hundred hours of entertainment, Biagio Messina is still a hands-on producer. He films, runs interviews, polishes edits, and creates graphics and visual effects. Along with his wife, Joke, he creates the visual style for their TV and film productions. His goal is to elevate great story with amazing visuals. He enjoys pushing the limits of motion picture technology at Joke Productions. But most of all, he loves running a company with his extraordinary wife, Joke.