Original Thinkers

Original Thinkers founder David Holbrooke, center, with staff members Danielle Jenkins, left, and Bebe Bischoff at the festival’s office in Telluride. (Watch file photo)


Ball of confusion, that’s what the world is today. So sang The Temptations in their 1970 hit that enumerated the world’s woes. Little has changed, it would seem, and there are many who believe the state of the world has deteriorated. Economic disparity, health crises by the score, endless wars, people divided by rhetoric and unyielding political battle lines … it’s a somber list.

But for the people who believe there are solutions, there is Original Thinkers, a new gathering of art, ideas, films, speakers who will share a wealth of innovative ideas and — most importantly — storytellers, that takes place primarily in Mountain Village Oct. 4-7. Original Thinkers released its program this week.

At Original Thinkers’ heart is its “ringleader” and founder, David Holbrooke. In the program’s opening remarks, Holbrooke writes, “It seems as if we live in a world gone mad with so many scourges and not nearly enough solutions. What worked in the 20th century with all its marvels and accomplishments won’t cut it in the 21st. If we’re to stem a dystopian future straight from science fiction, we need a new way to look at the world. We need to embrace original thinking, as these fresh and far-reaching ideas will help us write a new story of how we engage the world around us.”

Holbrooke’s vision is simple on its face; invite an array of artists, filmmakers, creative and livers of life with a story to tell, keep the gatherings intimate and wide open for discussion, and allow time to connect with others, digest new information, and turn ideas into action. 

“We really want to change the world with this,” he said.

There are 10 Original Thinkers programs, held at the Mountain Village Conference Center, called The Big Idea. Throughout the weekend, topics range from the tribal act of gathering and connecting, an examination of the American dream and the lure of wealth, glyphosate in our food, human resilience, and the value of telling our stories so that we can heal, among other provocative subjects. 

Each Big Idea includes speakers and films. Holbrooke likes the idea of creating presentations that go beyond film. “We’re trying to give the audience an experience that’s real and palpable,” he explained. “Movies can only get you so far.”

Barring any changes, there are 31 guests lined up and 17 films, most of them short form. Guests include journalist Jane Ferguson, photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, musician Patmore Lewis, scientist-activist, Dr. Zach Bush, Pulitzer winner Ron Suskind, actor Jeffrey Wright, and author David Quammen.

In what he calls a “21st century festival,” Holbrooke said that festival staff is fully aware of the problems of the world and hope that the programs give attendees ideas that turn into action. 

“We’re taking a solutions-based approach,” he said. “I hope the ideas get traction with our audience. There are lots of (other, similar festivals) where the audience felt something, but did they do something. We’re hoping to shorten that walk (between thought and action).”

In addition to The Big Idea, there are outdoor films screening in The Synapse Theatre near the top of the Chondola after dark. There also is an Original Thinkers ArtWalk, featuring pop-up shows by the festival’s guest artists on Oct. 4. And, if you’ve never thought of a party as Collective Effervescence, you will now — there are four official parties during the weekend, including a ping pong party at Wagner Ski Factory on Oct. 6.

Worthy Diversions include opportunities to make your own Original Thinkers swag, hiking, mountain biking, touring the Wagner Ski Factory or testing your nerve on the Via Ferrata. Festival sponsor Ojo Electric Scooters will also have their sweet little rides available for test spins around Mountain Village.

The festival also offers nourishment for the body and soul — sign up for a tea ceremony or yoga at various times Oct. 5-7. On Oct. 5, Tim Lafferty of Tim’s Trauma Balm, is leading three sessions on self-care.

Holbrooke and his team are dreaming big for the future, hoping to see the gathering grow to include a national and international audience and “to be a force in making the world better for everyone,” Holbrooke said. “We’re dreamers here, living in a world gone mad.”

Visit the website originalthinkers.com to purchase a pass and to view the program. Passes will be available at Ghost Town on 212 West Colorado Ave. in Telluride on Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.