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Dennis Ball, Lead Pacer and Support Team Member


Dennis Ball grew up in the mountains of Colorado but didn’t get involved in endurance sports until he moved to New York in 2003. Since then he has competed in everything from turkey trots, Ironman, to many ultra-distance running events. Dennis has a passion for endurance sports and it was this passion that inspired him to go back to school. Currently Dennis is finishing his degree in nutrition at Queen College and will be graduating this spring. When Dennis is not running or studying he works as a running coach for TriLife Coaching.

Quick Facts:

  • Home: New York, NY
  • What got you into running? My friend Jasmine Pierce called me one day and asked me if I wanted to run a 5k with her. I thought why not and ever since then running became a part of my life.
  • How did you first meet Nikki? I first met Nikki when I was the coach for The North Face Endurance Challenge in NY. I had to speak on a guest panel with her. I was very nervous and she could tell but she helped put me at ease.
  • Why did you become involved in Nikki’s Long Trail expedition? I became involved with this expedition because I believed in the purpose and message Nikki wanted to send with this project. Endurance sports are a lifestyle to me and they have a very transformative power. I hope that this project will inspire people to become active as well as bring more attention about equality in sports.
  • Greatest inspiration: When people realized that they are capable of more than they thought they were.
  • Proudest moment: It will be this May when I graduate from college!
  • Biggest fear: Running into a mountain lion
  • Favorite food on the trail: Gatorade’s Carb Energy Chew
  • Best adventure: By far The Long Trail
  • 3 Things People Should Know About You: 1) I am currently applying for my dietetic internship and my number 1 choice is in Bozeman, MT. 2) I am a vegetarian that hates eggplant. 3) I cheated on my vegetarian diet during Nikki’s Long Trail expedition. Shhhh.

Patrick McLaughlin, Sound Recorder / Still Photographer / PA / Wilderness Adventure Guru

Quick Facts:

  • Nickname: Pat
  • Home: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • What got you into filmmaking? I have always been interested in telling interesting stories. I began college as a screenwriting major, but graduated with a degree in biology, and I currently work in West Africa as a conservation biologist. Like filmmakers, scientists are essentially just telling stories, trying to understand and convey what they learn about how the world works. I have always wanted to have a foot in both worlds, to help convey science through film instead of just statistics and specimens. As a scientist, broadening your audience beyond other scientists is vital to both conservation and education. To that end, I have always had a keen interest in filmmaking.
  • How did you first meet Nikki? I met Nikki the day before she began her epic Long Trail attempt, in the middle of the woods of Northern Vermont.  
  • Why did you become involved in the making of the film? Jaime and I spent some time leading a National Geographic Student Expeditions trip in Tanzania this past summer. She told me about Nikki and the Finding Traction film, and I was just blown away by the entire story. Knowing that I was looking to gain more experience in filmmaking, Jaime graciously offered me the chance to join her crew. The chance to be a part of such an amazing project was an easy decision, and quite an honor.
  • Greatest inspiration: I guess it’s a tie between Forrest Gump and Gandhi
  • Proudest moment: Becoming an uncle 
  • Biggest fear: Questionnaires
  • Favorite food during field production: Dried Mango
  • Best adventure: Driving a 1983 Ford Fiesta from England to Mongolia
  • 3 Things People Should Know About You: 1. I study frogs, 2. I like bacon, and 3. I type with 2 fingers.
  • What’s Next? I am leading a research expedition this month in West Africa. We’re looking to document primate abundance in the remote tropical forests of Bioko Island, one of their last strongholds in the region where they are protected from hunting. Additionally, we will conduct extensive surveys for new species of amphibians and insects, while also inventing new and creative ways to cook SPAM.

Andrea Cady, Doctor, Chef and Support Team Member

Quick Facts:

  • Nickname/Trail Name: Wench. Or little wench.
  • Home: Pittsford, Vermont initially.  Bozeman, Montana now.
  • What got you into running? Runner parents in the 70s.  High school XC running on trails in VT.
  • How did you first meet Nikki?  Our moms taught junior high together and decided we each needed a female friend.  I was 11 and Nikki was 10.  We built a fort in the woods together and she seemed pretty cool.
  • Why did you become involved in Nikki’s Long Trail expedition?  Chance to hang out in the woods and cook and help Nikki.
  • Greatest inspiration: changes month to month.  Right now it’s my love of new soup recipes.
  • Proudest moment: Tuckerman headwall in leather laceup tele boots and wood (3 pin binding) skis, 1995ish.  Followed Nikki up.
  • Biggest fear: same headwall, same trip.
  • Favorite food on the trail: jerky.  Soup’s good, too.
  • Best adventures: life with a poodle, and a boyfriend who taught me how to kayak and mountain bike and dirtbike.
  • 3 Things People Should Know About You: (1) the farthest I think I’ve ever run at once is about 18 miles,  (2) when we used to pretend we were the Beatles when we were 12 Nikki was Ringo and I was George Harrison, and  (3) the most helpful advice I’ve received is “Never criticize your own cooking”.
  • Ambition / What’s Next? Would eventually like to find a job as cook/ physician on a South Pacific dive boat or private yacht.  Anyone hiring?

Stefanie Watkins, Finding Traction Editor

Stefanie has been editing factual shows and films for over seven years, specializing in natural history and science, and working on programming for the BBC, National Geographic, The Travel Channel, ESPN, and PBS. Originally from a small town in the Colorado wilderness, she was raised by a wildlife biologist to have a thirst for science and love of the outdoors. After attaining her B. S. in Environmental Studies/Biology, she marched off into the wild blue Montana yonder to earn a Master of Fine Arts in Science and Natural History Filmmaking.

Since recently moving to the UK, Stefanie has been editing for “Planet Earth Live” on BBC 1, “Sophie Grigson in the Home Counties” on the Travel Channel, and “Spirit of Sport” on ESPN Stars. She also regularly works on-location in Montana as an editor and writer for the Nat Geo Wild series, “America the Wild”, earning a finalist nomination at the 2011 International Wildlife Film Festival for Best Human-Wildlife Interactions for her episode, “Inside a Grizzly Attack”. She spent five years as a lead editor and astronomy producer at NASA, winning Best Promo at the 2007 International Wildlife Film Festival for her editing work on “Destination Earth”. She also edited several one-offs for National Geographic, Montana PBS, and the commended children’s science series “Untamed Science” for Pearson Education.

Quick Facts:

  • Nickname: Steffie, Steffers, Stefanaynay (as dubbed by cameraman Ricky)
  • Home: Bristol UK, originally from Evergreen, Colorado
  • What got you into filmmaking? I always wanted to be either a vet or CGI animator.  After trying both, and not enjoying either, I found the MSU science and natural history graduate program in Montana.  While making student films, I had an epiphany that editing was my true calling and I’ve been stupendously happy ever since.
  • How did you first meet Nikki? I have yet to meet Nikki.  I only know her through my edit suite (aka our back bedroom) here in the UK.
  • Why did you become involved in the film? The lovely Jaime Jacobsen called me up–to my great surprise–asking if I could help edit the Finding Traction trailers and eventually the show.  I immediately said yes.
  • Greatest inspiration: Editing:  Chris Dickens, editor extraordinaire for Slumdog Millionaire, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz.  Living:  Aung San Suu Kyi and Oscar Pistorious for their dedication to amazing causes.
  • Proudest moment: Landing my first BBC job as an editor.
  • Biggest fear: Gremlins, ridiculous I know.
  • Favorite food during field production / in the studio:  I love Late July Mojo Green chips when I’m working in Montana.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find them across the Atlantic. 
  • Best adventure:  Taking a 1920s steamboat down the Nile River a la Agatha Christie.
  • 3 Things People Should Know About You:  1. I have a twin sister…and am married to a twin, 2. My favorite film is The Princess Bride, 3. If I wasn’t an editor, I’d be a full-time surfer…if only I were good enough.
  • What’s Next?  I’m currently editing for the landmark series “North America”, due on the Discovery Channel in 2013.  It should be epic!

Jenny Pierce, Lead Pacer and Support Team Member

Jenny Pierce grew up in Ronan, Montana, located in northwestern Montana.  She spent her childhood years horseback riding, hiking, and llama packing in the mountains.  More focused athletic endeavors were inspired by not being allowed to play tackle football, which led to Jenny joining the 8th grade cross country team (she was the only member).  Jenny participated in cross country and many sprint and olympic distance triathlons through high school.  After graduation from Montana State University with an Earth Science degree, Jenny and her husband Josh eventually settled in Livingston, Montana.  Jenny is currently a geologist for Stillwater Mining Co. at the East Boulder Mine near McLeod, Montana.

Quick Facts:

  • Home:  Livingston, MT
  • What got you into running?  In 8th grade I came home with the sign-up sheet for tackle football.  My parents said no, so I did cross country instead.  I was the entire middle school cross country team.
  • How did you first meet Nikki?  I was referred to Nikki for physical therapy for an achilles tendon injury that kept me from running for seven years.  She fixed it and we started training together.
  • Why did you become involved in Nikki’s Long Trail expedition?  Nikki is my closest friend and I knew the Long Trail expedition was very important to her and that it was going to be very difficult.  I wanted to help her complete it and be part of the expedition.
  • Greatest inspiration:  Anyone I meet that is pushing themselves to achieve some goal that will make their life better.
  • Proudest moment:  My last race of 2012, Le Grizz in Hungry Horse, Montana. Everything fell into place and I had the most fun/best race to date.
  • Favorite food on the trail:  Bacon
  • 3 Things People Should Know About You: 1.)  I have the fasted known time, 2min. 55sec., for the 69W652+90 slusher stope ladder (~250 vertical feet) at the East Boulder Mine,  2.) I having an operating letterpress shop in my basement which includes two Chandler and Price letterpresses (circa 1899 and 1950ish), many fonts/type cases of lead and wood type, and a motorized paper cutter that scares me because it’s enormous, and  3.)  When my knees no longer want to run, I plan racing rally cars for Subaru.
  • Ambition / What’s Next?  Ambitions for the new year include staying healthy, injury free, and fit so running is fun!!  Upcoming races in the next few months will be ski mountaineering races in Montana and Utah.

Tyler Duke, Finding Traction Cinematographer 

Born and raised in Wilson, Wyoming, Tyler has spent his life in the Mountains.  From an early age he traveled throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.  After graduating high school he went on to earn his BA in Media and Theater Arts and then his MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking from MSU Bozeman.  While attending school he independently produced two documentary shorts through his company, Stormlight Productions: “To Kill a Wolf” which covered the controversy over the wolf re-introduction in Montana and “Death of the Fishermen” that portrayed the dying salmon fishing communities in Oregon and Washington. “Death of the Fishermen” earned three Telly Awards.  Tyler currently develops and produces compelling broadcast television series and one hour specials for domestic and international distribution. Now with Wit House Productions, he continues to explore the possibilities that lie in the ever expanding realm of new media. His work has appeared on National Geographic International, The Travel Channel, Speed, OLN, Montana PBS and Rush HD.
Quick Facts:
  • Home: Lone Tree, Colorado
  • What got you into filmmaking? Making ski movies with my friends in Jackson, Wyoming.
  • How did you first meet Nikki? I met Nikki in the airport in route to Vermont for her epic journey. 
  • Why did you become involved in the film?  It gave me a chance to reconnect with some filmmakers from grad school and go on an incredible journey both physically and mentally.  
  • Favorite food during field production / in the studio: Coffee
  • Best adventure:  Shooting BASE jumping in Switzerland
  • What’s Next? Continue to pursue adventures and films throughout the world.

2012 was a big year for the Finding Traction team.  We wanted to share our top 10 highlights from the year.  Here they are:

1.  Receiving generous donations from Petzl, the Greater Montana Foundation and MontanaPBS to fund Vermont production activities

These companies and organizations provided crucial support for the Fours Five production team, a 5-member filmmaking crew consisting of Producer/Director Jaime Jacobsen, Director of Photography Danny Schmidt, Cinematographer and Sound Recorder Devon Riter, Cinematographer Tyler Duke, and the multitalented Cameraman/ Sound Recorder/Production Assistant Patrick Mclaughlin to travel to Vermont to film Nikki’s expedition…which brings us to number 2.

2.  Completing the week-long, whirlwind adventure to document Nikki’s Long Trail expedition with a fantastic crew of runners and filmmakers

Nikki ran day and night for over 4 days through the beautiful and brutal Green Mountains, and our film crew was right there with her to capture the pain, glory and hardship she experienced on the trail.

During the expedition, we became very close with Nikki’s support team, pacers, family members, and friends who were there to guide and accompany her along the trail, provide nutritional guidance, medical attention, emotional support and motivation.  We drove all over the State of Vermont in an attempt to follow a moving target (aka Nikki) over the course of almost 300 miles, hiked the area’s highest and most rugged peaks, camped out under the stars, filmed Nikki entering aid stations in the middle of the night (we won’t forget Mad Tom Notch at 4am), endured wind, rain, fog and scorching heat, and all came out a bit stronger for it in the end.  Little did we know we were all signing up for Nikki’s Long Trail marathon by embarking on this film!

3.  Organizing the debut of the Finding Traction trailer for an enthusiastic audience at The North Face Endurance Challenge in Atlanta

In conjunction with a winning run at TNEC in Atlanta, on Saturday, October 13th, as part of a North Face panel discussion in Atlanta, Nikki first shared the Finding Traction trailer to a captive, 75-person audience.  The trailer received rave reviews, and we knew we were ready to let it loose and send it out into the world.

4.  Launching our Facebook page to create an amazing fan base around the world

We currently have a growing following on Facebook (over 1,500 Likes since our launch on October 23, 2012) where we share project updates, character vignettes of our cast and crew, links to our recent Indiegogo fundraising campaign, and news of interest to runners, athletes, filmmakers and Finding Traction fans.  Building this online following in advance of the film’s release has already created an audience waiting in anticipation for the finished documentary.  We can’t wait to share it with you!

5.  Watching the Finding Traction trailer go viral (thanks to features by Trail Runner Magazine and many others!)

We logged over 5,000 plays of the trailer in just 5 days once the the news started to spread.  To date, together the trailer and Indiegogo pitch video have logged over 13,000 plays across the U.S. and around the world, with huge followings tuning in in Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Japan and Germany.

6.  Screening the extended Finding Traction trailer for athletes in San Francisco at Sports Basement Presidio

Our first public screening of an extended, 10-minute version of the Finding Traction trailer took place on November 29th at Sports Basement Presidio in San Francisco.  This special movie night was organized in conjunction with The North Face Endurance Challenge and brought runners, race directors and community members together to celebrate an evening of trail running movies and race stories.  Nikki Kimball and Finding Traction’s Producer/Director, Jaime Jacobsen, were both at the event to present a special extended trailer (sneak preview of new scenes for our live audience), field questions, and spread the word about our Indiegogo campaign.

The trailer debuted in front of an audience of 300+ and generated a great Q&A and panel discussion afterwards.  Three generations ultra runners – Nikki Kimball, Anna Frost and Emilie Forsburg – shared great insights on health, nutrition and training from a women’s perspective. We had the chance to personally met and connect with a number of our fans at the event.  We are psyched to bring the finished film back to the Bay Area community in 2013!

7.  Meeting the talented folks behind our crowdfunding campaign at the Indiegogo HQ

Indiegogo’s film and sports campaign managers shared their insights on spearheading a successful outreach campaign while creating a sense of community around Finding Traction.  We implemented a number of their ideas for new perks in the final weeks of the campaign, including offering Holiday DVDs of Finding Traction and securing a Vermont Ski Tour Package at Bolton Valley.  Our visit to HQ and the wonderful buzz that resulted in the final week of our Indiegogo campaign was key to our success.  Thanks for the wonderful advice and support, Indiegogo, it was great working with you!

8.  Recording a stellar (and hilarious) podcast with Trail Runner Nation in their mobile studio

Nikki Kimball and Jaime Jacobsen joined TRN host Don Freeman and special guest Jimmy Dean Freeman to talk about the making of Finding Traction and how Nikki dreamed up and prepared for her 273-mile Long Trail expedition.  If you missed it, check out the hour-long podcast here (it’s also available on iTunes).

9.  Launching our new website and blog

Web designer Jon Burrill worked with us to create a beautiful new website and blog to keep our fans in the loop on the film’s progress!

10.  Reaching our $30K Indiegogo goal with the help of our supportive fans and friends – thanks, everybody!

This is a huge milestone for the Finding Traction team.  We hope to raise over $100,000 to finish the film, and the Indiegogo funding will help us pay for initial post-production costs while we continue to apply for grants and foundation funding, and bring additional sponsors on board.  With your help and generous support we are on target to finish the film in Summer 2013!

If anyone missed the Indiegogo campaign deadline, and you’re interested in supporting the film, tax-deductible donations via check can be directed to our non-profit partner, MontanaPBS (MontanaPBS/KUSM-TV, RE: Finding Traction, ATTN: Aaron Pruitt, Director of Content, Montana State University, VCB 183, Bozeman MT 59717).

Upon the completion of the film, our distribution plan includes national broadcast on public television (we just received word that Independent Lens is interested in considering the film for their upcoming series!), film festival screenings (we plan to submit to the Banff Mountain Film Festival, among others) and community screenings in select markets across the country.  We are also working to secure international distribution.  Finding Traction fans, stay tuned!

Brenna Boyd, Support Team Member 

Brenna Boyd was born and raised in Bozeman, Montana, and has been enjoying the mountains, trails, and open space virtually since birth as the daughter of a land trust founder and conservationist. She began running in sixth grade after being inspired by an article in a tween magazine and has had few breaks from running since. She left Montana for college in North Carolina, work in Chicago, and graduate school in Arizona, where two teammates on the university’s triathlon team gave her the impression that basically everyone had run a marathon and she should probably catch up. This led her to marathon and ultra-distance trail running, which contributed to her move back to Montana in the spring of 2011. She now lives happily two miles east of Bozeman with a cat, two dogs, and two horses, works as both a program coordinator and as a handicapped horseback riding instructor, and organizes her life around her travels, which inevitably involve running.

Quick Facts:

  • Nickname/Trail Name: BB
  • Home: Bozeman!!! 
  • What got you into running? An article in a now-defunct tween magazine called “Jump!” and subtitled “for girls that dare to be real”.
  • How did you first meet Nikki? I had known of Nikki for a couple of years, and we had a few mutual friends that finally got us connected after I moved back to Bozeman. I cold called her and we went running the next day!
  • Why did you become involved in Nikki’s Long Trail expedition? Because I love Nikki and I love adventures with friends.
  • Greatest inspiration: Maybe my dog Shortstop, because he just keeps trucking down the trail and looks so happy the whole time…
  • Biggest fear: Losing my contacts in the woods because I am very nearly blind and would probably die.
  • Favorite food on the trail: I once made up a song about potatoes during a 50-mile. They are pretty great while running, but so are jelly beans and gummy bears…
  • Best adventure: I just returned from Tunisia, which was the most amazing place I’ve ever been – camping in the Sahara was amazing!
  • 3 Things People Should Know About You: 1. I love all animals except for goats, 2. I frequently think in Spanish when I run – I don’t know why, 3. My magazine subscriptions include Martha Stewart Living, the American Quarter Horse Journal, Trail Runner, High Country News, Scuba Diver, and Travel and Leisure. That might be my bio right there.
  • What’s Next?: Training and finishing my first long race since ACL surgery last spring – the Gorge Waterfalls 50k in Oregon in late March.


Great news!  We’ve hit our $30K fundraising goal for our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign!

A huge thank you goes out to everyone for being part of this project and for making Finding Traction happen. December 15th was the final day of the campaign, and we are proud to announce that we surpassed our $30,000 goal to successfully raise $31,072 through 511 contributions and 493 individual donations (many of our fans even donated twice!)

It was amazing to see how everyone came together through this effort and the heart and soul that poured into the project. Here are a few highlights from the campaign:

We received formal support and endorsement from some big players in the running world, including Ultra Running Magazine and

Race directors from both TransRockies and the Bridger Ridge Run donated significant entries to us to show their support of the film and help us increase donations.

Bolton Valley Resort (Bolton VT), Free Range Massage (Bozeman MT), Muscles Not Motors (Montpelier VT) and Cactus Records (Bozeman MT) donated prizes to encourage our FB fans to donate.

The North Face, Northern Lights Trading Co., Bozeman Running Co., Boulder Running Co., San Francisco Running Co. and Universal Productions in the UK featured us in their newsletters or on their websites and social media pages.

Sports Basement Presidio in San Francisco rallied runners, race directors and Bay area community members in support of the project and hosted our very first screening tour.

The Bozeman Running Co. and the Big Sky Wind Drinkers are currently planning a wine and cheese fundraiser for us in Bozeman MT on January 17th to support the making of the film.

We did interviews with a number of media outlets and were featured in Trail Runner Magazine’s Digital Edition, Indiegogo’s Blog, Trail Runner Nation’s podcast, and’s website.

Many other organizations including Run Vermont, Girls on the Run, Molte Yoga Retreats and countless bloggers, magazines, and individuals also wrote about us and generated a great buzz about the film.

The finished film was invited to submit to festivals in diverse locations across the world including Pennington, South Africa; Vancouver, Canada; and Tokyo, Japan.

Festival directors in ID, OR, CA, NC and WA have already asked us to submit the film.

Thank you to each and every one of our fans and friends for playing an instrumental role in helping us hit our goal to finish the film.  Stay tuned for the film’s release in summer 2013!

Jaime and the Finding Traction Team

A special message to our fans who we met in San Francisco:
Thank you for coming to Sports Basement Presidio’s Movie Night!  We loved sharing Finding Traction with the you and thought The Dipsea Movie was fantastic.  We are proud to announce we sold out the event with over 300 in attendance – wow!  Nikki and I were both very inspired by the energy of the crowd.  You’ve reignited our motivation to work to make Finding Traction the best documentary it can be.  Your support means a lot to us.  You — our friends, colleagues, fellow runners, athletes and community members — are a critical part of the creation of this film.  Our goal is to raise $30,000 on our Indiegogo crowd funding campaign, and we have less than 2 weeks left to hit that mark.  We need your help to make Finding Traction happen!  Contributions start at just $5 and in exchange for your support, we’re offering some really cool swag and perks: Finding Traction stickers, autographed DVDs and photos, t-shirts and more!  Another way you can help is to encourage others to support the project by posting a link to our trailer and Indiegogo campaign ( on your own social media sites.  You can also email it out to folks you know and encourage them to support the film or “Like” the film on Facebook.  We’d love to hear from you.  We welcome any ideas and feedback you have on our project.  Thank you for your support!

The film was funded!