T he popcorn was hot and buttery and, best of all, there was a giant tub of it, all for her. If she was going to throw herself a huge pity party, Gabriella had decided, she’d do it right. That included a pint of caramel chocolate fudge ice cream, with a spoon already inside, waiting. But she reached for the popcorn first. If she was going to spend the night watching movies, she had to go with tradition.

The kids were asleep, her husband out learning, and the day’s mess was scattered across the tables and floor of her entire downstairs. But Gabriella was determinedly ignoring its call.

Today’s e-mail from Chad had shaken her up. Even after she’d sent him her clear refusal — which she’d done right away, in a polite, appreciative, and vague enough e-mail that she didn’t have to outright say she hadn’t touched a film since graduating — she found she couldn’t get it out of her mind.

There was no way on earth she’d partner with a man on a film, especially not about some outsider’s perspective on the “Orthodox Jewish community.” But still, the thought of taking on a project, of creating a nuts-to-bolts film — screenplay, actors, camera shots, editing, soundtrack — all of it made her heart race. Here she was, stuck behind some dull secretarial desk, spending her days typing in endless medical codes, and this sudden offer, striking out of nowhere, made her realize how desperate she was to do something creative, something artistic, something beautifully, uniquely her own.

It was enough to make her cry.

She had held back the tears, and managed to continue smiling at all the patients and answering phones, scheduling appointments, and typing in those medical billing codes until her nerves were stretched taut. That’s when she decided it would be an ice cream night.

She sat cross-legged now on the wide office chair and clicked on the film titled Lost. It was the very first film she’d made, just five minutes long, and she’d put into it all the ambitious symbolism that only a new filmmaker could, but still, it was brimming with vitality, the story of one woman lost in a maze of city streets, of what it means to lose and find oneself.

If she closed her eyes, Gabriella could still picture the cutting lab where she’d spent hours editing and perfecting her tiny video, her message to the world. Technique-wise, it was not nearly as sophisticated as her later efforts, which became gradually more understated and subtle, but the pride she felt when she screened this first effort for her class was incomparable.

She moved on to her next film, a short, whimsical piece titled Paint by Numbers, showing a crowd of people adding their own color splash to what started as a blank canvas, until it emerged as a picture. Gabriella leaned forward, devouring each shot. How long had it been since she’d watched these? Years. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 590)