The “Germaphobe” Project

In times like the coronavirus pandemic, when everyone is anxious and scared while seeing no potential end to this outbreak, it is difficult for people to stay emotionally stable and optimistic.

Luckily, two international school teenagers living in China, had been trying to make a change to their local communities by raising COVID 19 awareness and spreading love towards others. Tak Woo and Sophie Zhang, both 16 years old and attending Being World Youth Academy, on April 6th, 2020, released a short filmed named “Germaphobe” on YouTube.

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The short film “Germaphobe” tells a story that highlights the core message of living with courage and hope in difficult times, such as the COVID-19 crisis. In less than 14 minutes, the film accurately reflects and captures the public apprehension and paranoia caused by the worldwide outbreak.

Luke, played by Tak, and Chloe, played by Sophie, are two characters with extraordinarily contrasting attitudes towards the pandemic. While Chloe is portrayed as extremely paranoid and overanxious, Luke is calm and feels more at ease about the virus. Due to their differences, arguments arise consistently throughout the film. However, spoiler alert, in the end, they realize that they are all the same, just two people with the most basic human compassions wanting each other to be safe and healthy during such a difficult time period.

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Screenshot from “Germaphobe” of Luke (left, played by Tak Woo) and Chloe (right, played by Sophie Zhang)

The short filmed was developed and produced within a little more than a month, from scriptwriting, to filming, to editing, and to eventually releasing. As two teenagers who are both wildly passionate about theater, the whole process of production was done in great detail and dedication because they were doing the project for themselves instead of for an assessment, as Sophie expressed that in an interview.

Sophie also explained that she had previously worked together with Tak for other short film projects at school, but were rather meaningless and done for the sake of having fun with friends and getting good grades for tasks. However, this time, they were doing something out of their own accord; they wanted to make something meaningful and realistic that would eventually resonate with the audience.

Tak mentioned that the main goal for the short film “Germaphobe” was to help the general public in aspiring people to remain calm and to make rational choices. The film portrayed this message very well through the vivid character developments of Luke and Chloe as well as the rising arguments between them.

One of the many difficulties they encountered, in fact, was drafting and creating the characters. In an interview, Sophie emphasized that many different factors had to be taken into consideration when trying to capture the reality through the characterization of Chloe. “Her (Chloe’s) anxiety about not being “safe”, as I gradually came to understand, is not actually a portrayal of only people with this much anxiety, but also a representation of that moment of fear that everyone experiences occasionally in this pandemic,” explained Sophie, “it had to be real, not simply a joke, not something that was crazy and over the top, not madness.”

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Screenshot from “Germaphobe” of Chloe (played by Sophie Zhang)

Tak described his biggest challenge during the creation of this film project in a more general and abstract way. “I was doubtful of myself at times to be able to pull this project off,” as Tak said, “I was doubtful that I was constantly reminded of my own fears in trying to compensate and spread love for others when I was struggling to have that for myself.”

Surely, what went behind this project were countless sacrifices made by these students, who struggled to find peace in the pandemic themselves and risked their own health to spread positivity to the community around them. This is very telling of what their priorities were during a time like this.

Although the film has not yet hit that many views on YouTube, people who did see it were touched and inspired. Many people had reached out to Tak and Sophie about the film, expressing that their day became much better by spending just a small portion of the day to watch their film.

At the end of the day, we can’t help everyone in this world, nor can we stop the pandemic, but making small differences like this to the community around us is where it all starts. During times as difficult as a global pandemic, little changes towards happiness are exactly what we all need and what service is really about.

You can find the original “Germaphobe” short film at the link down below, be sure to check it out!

Written by

Linda Huang is a sophomore at Beijing City International School and a journalist for the World Teenage Reporting Project > COVID-19

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