Coming Of Age Memoir
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What's In a name? (The Brian Cheng Chronicles #1)

The story behind how I picked a name for myself... Or at least someone based off me.

What's In a name? (The Brian Cheng Chronicles #1)

OK, full disclosure, I probably am the most unqualified person to be saying this about myself, but here goes...

My name is Brian Cheng and I'm a filmmaker.

Now that's a pretty loaded title. It's usually reserved for people like Steven Spielberg, Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, Denis Villeneuve etc. You know, people with much cooler names than me or those who happen to have Steven in their name.

But that's really just my job description. What I want to pay my rent with.

I don't smoke a carton of cigarettes a day, drink gallons of LaCroix or bombard you with behind-the-scenes photos from some short abstract film about something depressing.

I'm a kid from the suburbs of Washington DC who rides a wheelchair like it's a motorcycle and maybe stayed in his emo phase for way too long. I like living in Manhattan, hanging out with my friends, playing video games, working at my work study job and practicing electric guitar.

Now you're probably looking at the title and going:

"When's this guy gonna tell us about the name?"

"Why does this guy look like a real-life version of the guy from the "Is This A Pigeon?" meme?"

Is this real life, or just a fantasy?

Well, let me introduce you to the character I'm talking about, Andrew James Wong. In fact, why don't you read his first appearance that I ever wrote?

The opening to "Snap". The first (real) script I ever wrote.Copyright 2018 Summer Daze Films

So, judging by that description, as well as what you've already learned about me, Drew is my author avatar of sorts, circa age seventeen. He's a near carbon-copy, give or take a slightly larger family and a sick sports car. He's me. Just with a different name. I could've just called him Brian and the story wouldn't have changed that much.

So why did I change "my" name? Take a look at some photos of me from that time.

Me at age 17. I was not very good at eating Ice creamFacebook

And this kid:

Age 14, Why do I look like I'm auditioning for the Drake And Josh reboot? Side note: Am I Drake or Josh?Facebook

Judging by that, you can probably guess the type of story I wrote, one about a geeky teenage loser dealing with "high school" problems, trying to get the girl. Same old, same old. I was geeky, gawky, and far from cool.

But in real life, it was more complicated than that: there was battling mental illness, physical disabilities, parental expectations, shitty friends, catfishing, first love, and a lot more things that I'm still learning to cope with. I poured it all into the first draft, which was two years ago, when I really sucked at this. But then again, I was 17. And that—like I just said—that was two years ago.

Since that time, I graduated high school, was an extra on Spider-Man: Homecoming, entered NYU, finished a year of Tisch, met many, many new friends, and even auditioned for a TV show. Which one? Well, that can wait till next week, when I talk about the time I thought I should dye my hair green—something the kid in those photos would have never even thought about. In fact, if I time-travelled to back then, he'd probably think I was lying. He'd probably think I was somebody else, and I'd probably agree with him. But then I'd get out my learner's permit and tell him the truth.

To conclude this story, as a writer and a storyteller—of course—I feel compelled to write about my life, to dramatize it. The fact remains though, for as connected as I am to the story, Drew is not me. I am not Drew. He's just a part of me, a lens through which I look at my life. That's what movies and TV can help us do—find ways to re-contextualize our experiences, make them universal, and enable to be enjoyed by all. I'm grateful for the opportunity to get a fresh start here at NYU and to bring more stories of my life, whether pre- or post-"Drew".

My goal is to change the system, and I don't mean leading some revolution or breaking Hollywood. I just wanna tell some stories and make life a little less boring. Hopefully I succeed.

The poster I mocked up for Snap. Coming later, I guess?

Next week, I'll tell you about the time I almost got stuck with green hair—it was bad.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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