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Original Thinkers Festival Debuts in Telluride

A new festival that aims to transform the way we think and look at the intersection between story and ideas is coming to #Telluride this month.

Original Thinkers will see a diverse group of people gather in the mountains of Colorado to try to understand the turbulent age in which we live through the age-old concept of story. The festival is comprised of ten shows, each one based around a specific idea that is examined through a mix of dynamic speakers, provocative art and off-the-radar films.

We spoke to founder David Holbrooke about how the idea came about whet what he hopes to achieve with #OriginalThinkers.

What was the genesis of the #festival?

I bought back in 2004 when I was making a series of short documentaries with the theme of Original Thinkers. At first, it was going to be just that - a cool film series - but then I realized that we could have a different and deeper impact as a festival because people really need to come together in these crazy days. Of course, Telluride has a lot of festivals - music, film and so much more - but we don’t have a gathering that really focuses on ideas. I am a filmmaker but have always felt that the most important films are about ideas and that intersection between ideas and story is relatively unexplored in the big idea conferences like TED, Aspen Ideas Festival or Summit. There seemed to be a real opportunity to go down that road and do it here in the fall in Telluride when things were a little quieter.

What has the reaction to the festival been like?

As I go around Telluride, people seem excited and offer me congratulations, which I refuse to accept as we aren’t there yet. There really is nothing like this so folks say they are looking forward to the fresh concept in programming and focus. I really don’t think anyone out there is doing anything quite like this so conveying what this is all about has had its challenges and it’s own evolution but we very much feel we are on track to do something that will be really exceptional.

How different or similar is the finished product to your initial idea for it?

That is a really good question. It has certainly evolved as I have understood what Original Thinkers can be. It’s kind of like getting to know your child as they get older - oh, they are good at math - or they can sing - or they are shy. We are still getting to know Original Thinkers but as we have programmed the festival and put it together, we have found out elements of it that I never would have known when I really started this thing not that long ago - sometime last fall. What we very much hope is that we can build a real community of original thinkers that helps us build Original Thinkers in real and tangible ways to become something extraordinary and truly impactful.

What do you hope to achieve with the festival?

We are on a mission of sorts. Yes, we want people to have fun and meet new people and all that. Of course, as a new business venture, we also hope to operate in the black, which is hard as hell for new fests like ours. We also hope local merchants benefit from this as this weekend has been traditionally a slow time here. However really what we want is for people to come out of a weekend at Original Thinkers nothing short of transformed. Yes, it’s a tall bar, but we think our programming with this highly curated mix of stellar speakers and outstanding films will have a deep and even profound impact on people that will stay with them for a long time.

What are the similarities and differences between Original Thinkers and Mountain Film in terms of ideas and hoped for outcomes?

I think both OT and MF want to affect and impact people’s world views, which is no easy task. Both also endeavor to bring people together and hope that they leave transformed.

If someone has never heard of this festival, how would you sum it up in a tweet?

People who come to Original Thinkers will have their minds blown, their hearts filled and leave with a spring in their step ready to take on the world.

Original Thinkers will launch October 4-7 2018 in Telluride, Colorado.

Announced guests include:

Jeffrey Wright, WestWorld, will screen his new movie O.G.

Lauren Greenfield, photographer and filmmaker (Queen of Versaille) will attend with her new film Generation Wealth.

Jedidiah Jenkins, author and filmmaker, will discuss his new book, To Shake the Sleeping Self, about his journey on bicycle from Oregon to Patagonia.

David Quammen, best selling author will talk about his new book "The Tangled Tree"

Jane Ferguson, PBS special correspondent who reports from conflict zones around the world

Joe Tanner, NASA astronaut and engineer

Yael Lavie, Â an Emmy-winning television producer and senior editor who worked for ABC News network for 14 years before returning to her home country of Israel to work for Sky News.

Ron Suskind, Pulitizer Prize winning author

Patmore Lewis, violinist for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and composer

Visit to purchase tickets and see the full schedule.


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