Telluride’s favorite (now retired) postal worker Jim Looney is the star of “Postman Jim” by local filmmaker Keith Hill, which is part of this year’s Original Thinkers Festival virtual programming. (Courtesy photo)

Original Thinkers Festival never has a shortage of big ideas. The synapse-firing festival, which this year runs from Oct. 1-11 and will be virtual as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, has released its programming for its 2020 edition. As always, its 10 crown jewels are its Big Ideas programs. Each of the 10, curated shows features speakers, art film and music.

Now in its third year, the programming will grapple with the key issues of the day from the Black Lives Matter movement to the isolation of pandemic lockdown.

“It is a confounding time for anyone who looks around and sees how troubled our present, much less our future is, which is why we believe original thinking is so damn important,” said OT ringleader David Holbrooke. “The same old approach to ever more serious problems won't work, which is something we have seen with the inspirational Black Lives Matter movement."

Going digital provides the festival with an opportunity to reach new audiences. With passes now on sale at originalthinkers.com, the event can become truly global. Additionally, the programming dates have been expanded from the traditional four-day terrestrial event to 10 days of online exploration.

"It's unnerving to embark on this, but we believe in the power of our program and think that people really need, and want, something that is smart, entertaining and compelling that will give us some context and clarity to this critical juncture in history,” Holbrooke said.

Holbrooke and the OT staff were handed the task of reinventing the gathering as a result of public health orders that call for limited crowd sizes and social distancing mandates.

“Creating a new cultural entity is extremely challenging in any environment and especially so in the middle of a pandemic,” he said. “That being said, as the world rapidly changes, original thinking is needed, now more than ever.”

This year’s programming features a diverse array of themes, each one examined through a multi-faceted lens of galvanizing speakers, and thought-provoking film, art and music.

This years themes are: The Drum is Calling, Collective Culture, Invite Others In, How To Be a Chaos Pilot, Our Inner Cinema, Our Never-ending Story, What Wouldn’t You Do, What Do Viruses Really Want From Us?, Windows and Mirrors and America: A Constant Work In Progress. If that sounds like a substantial helping of food for thought, it is.

The Drum is Calling, for instance, features the film “Gather” and will serve as a jumping-off point for a deep discussion on the human rights issues surrounding Native Americans. Our Inner Cinema is an exploration of the human brain, how it evolves, new ways of communication, and how the brain is affected by technology and social media, among other topics. Featured speakers will be Adam Horowitz — a PhD student in MIT Media Lab's Fluid Interfaces Group whose work aims to augment human awareness, translating advances in neuroscience into design of interventions and experiences — and filmmaker Jeff Orlowski whose film “The Social Dilemma” has led social media users to rethink how they use various platforms. Also on tap for Our Inner Cinema is neuroscientist Alexandra Rieger and filmmaker Ellie Wen.

OT is known for it range of provocative films. Among the offerings, local filmmaker Keith Hill’s loving lens tells the story of retired Telluride postal worker Jim Looney. The film, which was produced by Holbrooke, “tells the story of Jim’s last few weeks at the post office before he retired and is full of the abundant kindness and simple wisdom,” according to a news release.

Other guests include activist Regan Byrd, and filmmakers Jimmy Ferguson and Catherine Gubernick.

At the heart of the festival are human stories and 2020 programming hews to that vision.

“There are so many big ideas in our individual lives that can help us process this increasingly complicated world,” Holbrooke said. “What we try to do at Original Thinkers is find those stories that will resonate deeply and stay with us long after we have taken them in, creating an indelible experience.”

For additional information or to purchase festival passes, visit originalthinkers.com.