When the coronavirus first hit U.S. shores early this year, there was a limited understanding of how it spread from person-to-person and how to best contain the virus. Research into COVID-19 is ongoing, but scientists have since reached a broad consensus on the efficacy of mask-wearing, hand-washing, and other public health measures designed to minimize the impact the virus has on communities.

Still, public health guidance continues to evolve as the science becomes clearer, and changing guidelines have sown confusion among the public. Misinformation campaigns and conflicting messages on social media have added to social and political rifts, impacting public understanding of best practices and shaping national attitudes and behavior.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 people aged 18-30 conducted by researchers at the NYU School of Global Public Health gleaned some useful insights into how young people are behaving in light of the pandemic. For instance, 54 percent of respondents do not believe that people their age are following the rules recommended to control COVID-19. The perceived low compliance rate is particularly concerning as the perception of one’s peers can disincentivize others from taking necessary precautions. Further, 22 percent of those surveyed say they are depressed due to COVID-19 and 28 percent say they are more anxious.

In an effort to help expand knowledge and change behaviors among Gen Z, several NYU schools collaborated on the COVID-19 Social Media PSA Campaign, which asked students to leverage their creativity and social media savvy to create one-minute public service announcements. Each submission was required to be backed by science and all were vetted by NYU experts to ensure accuracy and alignment with wider public health messaging.

The PSAs could take any form—video, song, dance, game, photo, artwork, poem—and followed a series of messaging prompts that were inspired by the results of the survey. These prompts were designed to encourage behavioral change (such as wearing a mask), shape attitudes (through reinforcing trust in public health officials over friends and family), and remind young people of exactly how the virus spreads.

The result was 19 entries with five selected as winning examples of using science to inform urgent artistic messaging. The films being honored were created by students from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Tandon School of Engineering, and Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. From catchy jingles to an Ingmar Bergman homage, these films are designed to be quick, engaging, and shareable.

Learn more about the filmmakers’ process below and share these PSAs on your own social media with the hashtag #NYUArtforHealth!

Victoria Castro & Noah Shipman

Tisch School of the Arts

Originally an illustrator and computer science student, I had always searched for a way to marry my two backgrounds. Animation is a wonderful medium to express hard-to-confront topics. I have ever since felt drawn to tell rich, critically urgent stories as a director and animator. - Noah Shipman

Shirley Chin

Tandon School of Engineering

I decided to make something that was informative yet fun. I was mainly driven by how sad the pandemic made people feel, and so I wanted to create a PSA using the fun style of things that I tend to create. I ended up making a rhyming song filled with safety tips, along with doodles to match the lyrics. With this PSA, I hoped that I would get people to follow the advice and also feel a sense of hope that our lives will eventually become normal again.

Andie Lee Carter & Briana Harris

Tisch School of the Arts (alumni) 


Matt King & David Buhrmaster

Tisch School of the Arts

During the school year, I had an idea for an adult diaper commercial that I pitched to my short commercial form class. David Buhrmaster was in that class and after seeing the PSA competition adapted the message of my pitch for a mask PSA. - Matt King

Benny Rendell & Archie Lewis Harris

NYU Tisch Future Filmmaker; NYU Steinhardt Screen Scoring

I really wanted to create something humorous and enjoyable to watch, but also capture the gravitas of this moment. It seemed an homage to Ingmar Bergman’s poignant film The Seventh Seal might just do it! - Benny Rendell