As Sophia Chew entered the Zoom call, her dorm room in Southern California came into view. Behind her, was a wall of posters of movies and albums she loves, including Lorde’s Melodrama and Netflix’s Shadow & Bone. However, you don’t need to see her room to understand her admiration for different art forms. You only need to look at her portfolio. 

Sophia Chew is a Gen Z photographer, filmmaker, and content creator. Her portfolio is dotted with abstractly edited photography and short videos inspired by the books and movies she loves, like Everything Everywhere All At Once, Lockwood & Co, and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. From posting her photography on social media, she’s amassed over 100k followers on Instagram and 11.2 million likes on TikTok. In 2022, Chew created a three-part photo composition series in collaboration with Marvel for the theatrical release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Then in 2023, she hosted the red carpet premiere for the second season of Shadow & Bone

EnVi had the opportunity to chat with Sophia Chew to learn more about her creative process, and her views on fandom and storytelling. 

A Love Passed Through Generations

Chew remembers that her first camera belonged to her dad. “[He] had this camera that he didn’t really use. It wasn’t a great camera, but it was one at the end of the day,” she laughed. 

She hails from a family of avid photographers. Her late grandfather Ken was a marine biologist and photographer. He would bring his children on his research expeditions and take photos of them. He collected thousands of film slides over the years. Chew recalled her grandfather showing the family large photo albums with pictures from when her dad was a kid. Her dad shared the same love for photography as her grandfather, and referred to himself as the “camera man” in high school. “[This] is something that I started to resonate with […] at fifteen,” Sophia said fondly. “I like to think that my grandfather’s love for photography spread [to] my dad which was passed down to me.”

Artists in Fandoms

Chew didn’t always know she was going to go into film. Her high school was very STEM and business-oriented, so most of her classmates were aiming for degrees in those areas. However, she set her sights on a more creative field. When asked to pinpoint a moment that propelled her down the film career path, she recalled the pandemic being her most pivotal moment. Like many creatives stuck at home, Chew turned to what she had most of: time. She began to read more books, watch more movies, and take more self-portraits inspired by those media.

At first, Chew wanted to be the creator who only put out her own art, and while there is merit to that, she also wanted to create a space to share her thoughts on the books and films she’s consuming. Whether through writing about the process behind creating a shot, or why she enjoyed a particular theme in a novel, she was able to carve a space for herself within the creative industry as well as different fandoms. “[The account] is very much a reflection of me,” she said. “Being a fan is [also] so nice because you get this understanding of what people want to see and what’s working.”

Chew’s self-portraits soon became the representation she looked for in books and films. Fanart, fanfiction, and cosplays are oftentimes a means to self-insert in our favorite worlds. They are also ways for artists to express their interpretations and put their own spin on different stories. Chew believes that it’s important to have diverse spaces within fandoms. “It’s really special to allow artists to have [these] kinds of spaces to share their interpretations,” she said. “Whether it’s fanart, photography, or cosplays.” 

Chew also actively searches for books by Asian authors to gain inspiration from and create photography inspired by those worlds. She has created photo series inspired by Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights and Elizabeth Lim’s Six Crimson Cranes. 

The Fangirl to Industry Pipeline

Soon, production companies and creators took notice of Chew’s photography and genuine love for other forms of media. For the Shadow & Bone season 2 premiere, Chew met with the social media team to plan out engaging content and interview questions. She also took to Instagram to see what her followers — who were also fans of the book series — wanted to know about the cast. “I can talk for hours about how much I love Leigh Bardugo and how much I love the series and how many doors it’s opened for me,” Chew recalled fondly when asked about her experience hosting the premiere. She credited the opportunity to the content she created in her bedroom during the pandemic. “I refer to this as the fangirl to industry pipeline,” she said with a knowing smile. 

When asked about which book she would adapt to a movie, her excitement was palpable. “I think about this all the time,” she said. “I think… maybe The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue or The Inheritance Games. Actually, Addie LaRue works very well as a book, so maybe not that. […] There’s a lot about death and sabotage [in The Inheritance Games] which I think is so messy but so interesting. I think The Inheritance Games [adaptation] would be amazing,” she concluded. Her careful thought process shows her love for adaptations, and her deep understanding, as well as appreciation for what makes a book and a movie work. 

A Project Years in the Making

Chew is a Swiftie at heart. Our interview took place the day after Taylor Swift had announced her new album The Tortured Poets Department, so the first couple of minutes were spent gushing over the news. She expressed her love for folklore, and confessed that she’d had an idea for a film inspired by the album since its release. But it wouldn’t be until 2023 when she’d feel ready to realize her vision.

The summer before her freshman year of college, Chew gathered her sister and friends to shoot a short film inspired by Swift’s “august,” “betty,” and “cardigan,” which are all songs from folklore. Fans may recognize the trio as the love triangle story between James, Betty, and an unnamed person often referred to as August or Augustine. The film was shot within four days with Chew’s sister Madison Chew as August/Augustine, Abby Weiss as Betty, and Sidh Shroff as James. “I think the process of throwing [the film] together just came out of me wanting to create something that’s been on my mind for a long time and something that’s really close to my heart because folklore is one of my favorite albums.”

All Eyes on Sophia Chew

In the last four years, Chew has landed partnerships with Warner Bros and Adobe, as well as become the youngest Sigma ambassador. And she has no plans of stopping anytime soon. 

While creating photography based on books is something she still very much enjoys, Chew is also looking to explore more long form film projects. “I’ve gotten very comfortable in creating short form content, which doesn’t mean that I want to slow down or stray away from it, but I’m definitely curious about exploring more long form video [projects],” she said. 

Chew ended our conversation with a piece of advice for young creatives wanting to apply to film school: “Be so authentically yourself. [Schools] hear all the time about kids who know they want to go to film since they were born and kids who grew up going to the theaters. There is so much […] that makes a person unique outside of film. So if you can, speak to a super, super niche interest that you are excited about.” 

“I literally wrote on my application that I can give an hour long presentation on why Katniss could only win the Hunger Games with Peeta and nobody else — and I got accepted!” she said with a laugh. 

Check out Sophia Chew’s portfolio on her website, and follow her on Instagram and TikTok to keep up with her latest projects. 

Interested in learning about more creatives like Sophia Chew? Check out our interview with Shenuka Corea here!