Jaime Jacobsen, Producer/Director of Finding Traction, was kind enough to give me 30 minutes of her day to share her views on documentary film making and Nikki Kimball’s incredible feat of completing the ‘Long Trail’. Keep an eye out for Nikki’s interview that will be posted in a couple of weeks.
<Craig> Tell me about yourself?
<Jaime> I’m an independent documentary filmmaker living in Bozeman for the last 7 years. I studied art and environmental studies in my undergrad and was looking for a way to combine the two separate disciplines. My mom remarried a documentary filmmaker who took me along on film shoots while I was in college. I just loved it. It was a great way to come into contact with a lot of different people, places, and ideas that I normally wouldn’t interface with in my life. It has allowed me to tell stories that had meaning in the larger scheme of things, whether it was rallying people around a cause I think is important or inspiring folks. Filmmaking is a great vehicle for that.
<Craig> Is this your first feature length documentary?
<Jaime> Yeah. Until now I’ve only made 30-minute films, so this is new territory for me, which I’m really excited about.
<Craig> Why did you choose Nikki Kimball and ultra running?
<Jaime> One of our co-producers met her in an airport, and Nikki had mentioned her plans to attempt to break a speed record on Vermont’s ‘Long Trail.’ We heard about this and thought, ‘what an incredible feat that she is going after.’ There is something really captivating about someone who has the drive to go after something that many people might consider to be absolutely impossible. Once I met Nikki my interest piqued to a whole new level because, as a female filmmaker, I have a passion to inspire women. Nikki shares that same desire for women to be active and to achieve their goals. It made me want to share her story. I’m also fascinated with the sport of ultra-running, something I didn’t know anything about before starting this project.
<Craig> How do you think your film could redefine women’s views regarding trail and ultra-running?
<Jaime> I hope that, beyond inspiring women to consider a sport that pushes their own limits—either against themselves or their male opponents—, it just inspires women in general to pursue their dreams and just go after it. Nikki’s passion, drive, and courage are contagious. They have been a big motivating factor in my own life to go after my goals. I hope it does the same for others. If we can do that I think we’ve succeeded.
<Craig> Tell me a little about your journey to take on something this grand of a scale.
<Jaime> It’s been all about being open to possibilities, living with uncertainty, being incredibly flexible. That goes for all aspects of this project, from trying to figure out how to cover a moving target over nearly 300 miles or just trying to put the film together, to raising the money to complete it. This is something I’ve never done before as a filmmaker and there is a lot of adaptation.
<Craig> How were you able to get cameramen out in the middle of nowhere with Nikki?
<Jaime> We utilized Nikki’s pacers and support crew. Setting up a camera crew to film Nikki running by wasn’t practical in a number of locations, so we had her pacers carry mounted GoPro cameras to film along the way. While it was hard due to the roughness of the trail or the rocks, they were definitely able to do it better than we were. It allowed us to capture some intimate and intense moments like we were right there with Nikki.
<Craig> In most documentaries there is a general story line. What do you do in a situation like this where you really have no idea how it might go?
<Jaime> One of the things we do as filmmakers, and I wouldn’t say it always works, is we try to plan out all of the different scenarios that might happen during filming. When we did get unexpected footage we just had to roll with it and document what was occurring to the best of our ability. It might mean throwing certain aspects out the window. In the end, it involved a lot of flexibility and open-mindedness.
<Craig> How emotional was it for you as a team to be there and document her finish?
<Jaime> It feels dreamlike because we were so focused on Nikki’s response and those of her family and supporters. We weren’t even focused on ourselves because we were exhausted. The expedition was so challenging. There were times when we didn’t know if we would be successful in completing both the filming of it and her actually finishing the run. There were a lot of tears of joys and relief to see everything come to fruition.
<Craig> What does this do for you long term?
<Jaime> I hope this is the first of many films I complete as a documentary filmmaker. We plan to finish this film and then go on tour across the country to speak about our experiences. Nikki and our crew make a great team. I know it will be an incredible journey for all of us.
To view more information about Finding Traction and Jaime’s work, please visit the Indiegogo site. You can help make this production a reality with a small donation. Thank you.
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