Recounting the Amazing True Story of ‘The Cokeville Miracle’

In 1986, a madman took over the elementary school in the small town of Cokeville Wyoming with guns and a bomb. Two and one-half hours later, the bomb exploded. The bomb should have leveled the school, but miraculously none of the 154 children and teachers in the room died. The Cokeville Miracle, an independent film recently released in theaters, recounts this amazing true story of faith and answers to prayer. Avid Media Composer played an integral part in getting it to the screen.

The locked offline cut of 'The Cokeville Miracle'.

This film was an interesting edit for a few reasons, but above all because of its unusual structure.  In a typical movie, the bomb exploding would be the climax of the movie (e.g. the hostage situation builds to that moment, and then after some resolution the credits roll).  But The Cokeville Miracle is an interesting case, because the “climax” of the bomb exploding actually happens near the midpoint of the film.  The entire third act goes back through the event and reveals the miracles, both small and large, that led to a joyous outcome rather than a tragedy.

The challenge then became, how do you keep things interesting and satisfying, when so much of the third act is dependent on footage the audience already experienced in the first two acts? I think this film works because while the bomb going off is the height of action, the film ends with a spiritual climax of sorts.  Of course, the material in the third act is kept fresh because new information is being revealed, but we also spent a lot of time in Avid refining that third act, making sure it was snappy.  Media Composer makes it so fast and easy to try out different cuts.  We can approach a scene in multiple ways, quickly screen them, and see what way we like best.

David and Doris Young (played by Nathan Stevens and Kym Mellen) from 'The Cokeville Miracle'

Because of the film’s small budget, I served as both the editor and the VFX artist. And as you can tell from the following photo, the production scrimped and hired a total noob as my assistant.  He turned out to be a lazy punk, uninterested in performing his DIT and assistant editor duties.

My lazy assistant.

So those responsibilities fell to me as well. Needless to say, there was a lot to keep track of for one person. Avid Media Composer helped me keep all the madness organized from the first shot until the final handoff. And I LOVE that it plays nice with other systems when those handoffs occur. Getting the film ready for sound mixing was as simple outputting an AAF. I recently finished another film using a different NLE. Let’s just say that handoff was more than slightly… complicated.

The film was shot on Sony’s F55 CineAlta camera at 4K in their XAVC codec. Our workflow consisted of linking to the footage via Avid AMA and transcoding to 1080p DNxHD 36 for the offline edit. Sound was recorded double-system, so everything was synced in the Avid using AutoSync. After the offline was locked, the footage was onlined to the original camera files at 4K using DaVinci Resolve, from which DPX files were sent to a colorist for final color and output. The workflow between Resolve and Avid was rock solid. The film was finished at 4K (VFX included!) mostly for future-proofing and some select screenings.

The film was released in select theaters on June 5th, and will expand to new markets throughout the summer. A list of theaters currently showing the film can be found at www.cokevillemovie.com. Updates and information about the film can be found on it’s facebook page www.facebook.com/CokevilleTheMovie.

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