Original Thinkers is a new, highly curated festival that melds speakers, films, and performance into a powerful four day experience in Telluride, Colorado. Founded by David Holbrooke, this unforgettable weekend in the mountains will convene creators, innovators and doers to connect on a range of topics.
BUILDING A COMMUNITY OF ORIGINAL THINKERS
Offering its audience a unique perspective on some of the crucial issues of our time, Original Thinkers engages people on how to have a real and tangible impact. Our community of Original Thinkers assemble in Telluride and leave at the end of the weekend, changed and charged to make a real difference.
THE BIG IDEA
Over the course of the four day festival, the OT community will gather and grow through shared experiences and engaging content.
OCTOBER 3-6th, 2019
October 3-6th, 2019
Passes go on sale in May.
Original Thinkers is working on 2019 programming with guest announcements coming this winter but if you have someone you would like to see at the festival, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The weekend’s programming featured 10 unique shows, each designed around a distinct theme with corresponding films and speakers. All shows were housed in The Big Idea: a single theatre venue in the Mountain Village Conference Center.
In between shows, there were be opportunities beyond The Big Idea where conversations continued, connections were made, and the experience of Telluride in autumn truly came to life. Adventures in the outdoors, live art and music, and opportunities to collaborate made the weekend vibrant and memorable from start to finish.
Over the course of the four day festival, the OT community Gathered and grew through shared experiences and engaging content.
Tony Award-winning actor Jeffrey Wright has appeared in scores of films, garnered acclaim for several notable Broadway performances and helped raise the bar in modern television content with roles on shows such as Boardwalk Empire and WestWorld.
He’s won a Pulitzer for his journalism and lectured at Harvard Law, but Ron Suskind’s most significant accomplishment might just be the way he brought autism and neurodiversity into better cultural understanding through his own family’s experience raising an autistic son in the book Life, Animated.
The Southern photographer and cultural rebel Jane Rule Burdine, has spent her life documenting a vanishing South that she equally calls home and yet never accepts at face value.
Corsican born, New York raised and based, multi-disciplinary artist Agathe Snow’s work is a well-choreographed cacophony of media; live performance, sculpture, social critique, dance, even catered meals immerse you in Snow's work that at its core is about community big and small, personal and political.
Author and journalist David Quammen writes illuminating, insightful and crucial works of prose, tackling everything from extinction to diseases and genome sequencing in a prolific and ever-growing collection of feature articles, essays, columns and books.
Brigid Kaelin is an award-winning musician and storyteller who has sung on A Prairie Home Companion, the BBC, and who also occasionally plays musical saw and accordion with Elvis Costello. Her writing has garnered attention for its honesty and bravery, chronicling motherhood and feminism as an independent artist.
John Hausdoerffer merges the philosophies of environmental ethics with the practices of social justice. He is the author of Catlin's Lament: Indians, Manifest Destiny, and the Ethics of Nature, as well as co-editor and co-author of Wildness: Relations of People and Place and the forthcoming What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be? John is the Dean of the School of Environment and Sustainability at Western Colorado University in Gunnison, CO, a co-founder of the Mountain Resilience Coalition, and a Fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature in Chicago.
Musician, composer and filmmaker Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee has performed with some of jazz’s biggest names, published work in outlets like The New York Times and National Geographic and produced documentaries on subjects from space travel to languages on the verge of extinction.
As an astronaut, aerospace engineer and research pilot for NASA, Joe Tanner has studied the Earth’s atmospheric composition, performed several spacewalks and worked on the International Space Station.
International news correspondent Jane Ferguson is known for front-line dispatches from some of the world’s most intense conflicts zones, such as Iraq’s war against ISIS, Houthi-controlled Yemen and battle-torn South Sudan.
Award-winning photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield is a preeminent chronicler of the intersections of American youth culture, consumerism, gender and affluence whose films include The Queen of Versailles and Generation Wealth.
Self-taught photographer and documentary filmmaker Jon Bunning single-handedly shot, directed and produced The Tables, which has garnered over a dozen awards for best short documentary since its premiere.
Filmmaker Kathryn Everett is the chief operating officer at Artists for Peace and Justice, which collaborates with artists to advance peace and justice in communities of need around the world.
A 26-year Army Veteran with an immense talent for theatrical performances that aim to heal not only herself but anyone daring to listen. Deep spiritual values allow her to selflessly elaborate on pain in hopes of setting an example of strength for countless others.
Wally Green grew up amid the gang violence of Brooklyn projects before the unlikely sport of table tennis vaulted him into international competitions as a celebrity athlete and ping pong ambassador.
Kelsey Bennett is one-half of a New York City-based creative team, along with her sister Remy, known for vibrant, subversive and uncomfortably honest works of film, fine art and photography such as their Under Her Skin series.
Remy Bennett is one-half of a New York City-based creative team, along with her sister Kelsey, known for vibrant, subversive and uncomfortably honest works of film, fine art and photography such as their Under Her Skin series.
Dr. Zach Bush is leading the fight against the widespread use of glyphosate in agriculture and food. Triple board certified, Dr. Bush is a scientist and activist whose talks on creating a healthier environment for all while cultivating a healthy lifestyle for yourself and family is inspiring and motivating.
Despite losing his arms and suffering other severe injuries in a 2012 apartment fire, artist Prince Amponsah has resumed his pursuit of an acting career, appearing in dance and stage performances in Toronto, Canada.
Washington - Moscow - Johannesburg - Rio - London - for the past two decades Keme Nzerem has reported around the globe for British network TV on issues from corruption, politics, and human rights - to sport. His focus is always on people, and how global events impact the lives of ordinary folk.
When Keme’s not filming news stories, he is typically cycling or backcountry skiing, whether it’s in the Himalaya or Scotland.
Keris Salmon is a journalist and visual artist whose evocative body of work, We’ve Made These Lands What They Are, pairs fragments of text with images of antebellum slavery dwellings to create a complex and nuanced portrait of an institution that continues to define America.
Yael Lavie is 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.
Armenian-Jordanian filmmaker Sareen Hairabedian brings stories of unheard, underrepresented and incredible humans to the screen with her media production company Hai Creative.
Madrid-based animator Andrew Khosravani has illustrated feuds between Jung and Freud, indie music videos, the dreams of astronauts and the history of the number zero for media outlets such as The Atlantic, BBC and The New York Times.
In addition to playing over 100 performances a year with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, violinist Patmore Lewis is a composer who manages to fuse classical music with pop, hip-hop, jazz and even environmental conservation.
Journalist and author Leslie Chang has explored how socioeconomic change transforms institutions and individuals across the globe in pieces for The New Yorker, National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler and her book, Factory Girls.
TJ Ryan’s military career spanned just under 13 years ending mid-2017. His belief in the creative arts and quality mental health care grew as he saw the benefits they began to have on his life. As a result, TJ recognizes trauma as a universal human plight that can occur anywhere and can be experienced by anyone, including people outside of the military. Tj believes in supporting those who at times may not have a voice, and particularly empowering youth so that they may always be able to express themselves and better our world as time moves forward.
Amateur artist and poet Vainuupo Avegalio's art and poetry documents his personal struggle with PTSD while serving in the military. He has had several art shows in places like The Torpedo Factory, Workhouse Art Center, and other venues.
Joe Merritt is a Retired Marine, Poet, artist, and teacher. He found art at the end of his Career with the military. Believing in the power of art as communication he works as a facilitator of Arts programs at a Hospital, as well as a board member of a non-profit that brings art programs to military members.
Director: Emmanuel Vaughan Lee
When the astronauts of the Apollo 8 mission photographed the Earth rising over the surface of the moon in 1968, they brought home one of the most impactful photographs of human history, offering a new perspective that transcended national, political and religious boundaries.
Director: Andrew Khosravani
Sex, religion, and envy – how Freud and Jung’s frenetic friendship tore itself apart.
Director: Lauren Greenfield
Lauren Greenfield’s stunning new documentary — the culmination of 25 years of chronicling America’s excess — spins a fascinating cautionary tale about what happens when greed, status and money cloud the vision of what’s most important in life.
Director: Kathryn Everett
In a remote pocket of northern Pakistan, girls are for the first time challenging tradition to fight for their right to go to school, initiating earth-shifting change through a quiet but determined revolution.
Director: Roopa Gogineni
Using their weapon of choice--a life-sized puppet of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir--young artists forcefully and hilariously mock the distant President’s policies and use humor, to fight against the corrupt regime.
Director: Ivana Hucíková, Sarah Keeling & Grace Remington
M. Elaine Bromfield, a black Puerto Rican immigrant raising her family in a Brooklyn housing complex in the ‘60s, documented their lives on 8-mm film — creating a rare trove of moments both quotidian and monumental that otherwise would be lost to history.
Director: Jamie Miller
After aspiring actor Prince Amponsah suffers devastating injuries in an apartment fire, he’s forced to reckon with fate, reassess his new realities and confront a daunting challenge: retreat into fear and self-pity, or dig up the courage to return to the stage.
Director: Lauren Greenfield
As millions of Americans lose their homes during the 2008 financial crisis filmmaker Lauren Greenfield mesmerizing film takes us into the home of timeshare king David Siegel and wife jackie as they attempt to build one of the largest houses in US history as their own finances and the world economy crumbles around them.
Director: Andrew Khosravani
There’s no better bust-up in the annals of philosophy than the row between two titans of existentialism: Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Director: Claudia Zamora
In a distant future where catastrophe poisoned all soil and corporations produce tasteless food in labs; a mysterious Archive opens the door to a sumptuous past.
Director: Jon Bunning
Two donated ping pong tables in the heart of New York City give birth to an eclectic amalgamation of the Big Apple’s finest ping pong players and the inspiring community they build around their love of the game.
Director: Alain Dellanoy
This is going to be awkward. We all remember ‘the talk’ either because our own parents stumbled through explaining the birds and the bees to us as we entered our own pubescent adventures or from whispered second-hand blush-faced retellings. This beautifully animated short will make you feel thirteen all over again.
Director: Kenny Laubbacher
Why do this? That’s the question at the heart of this beautiful short film that follows OT guest Jedidiah Jenkins on his quixotic bicycle journey from Oregon to Patagonia. This is an adventure of the soul; not as interested in the trials and travails of life on the road as much as the existential concerns of Jenkins mind.
Director: Maxim Pozdorovkin
The word robot was invented by Czech author Karel Capek in 1920 based on an old Slavic word, robota, that translates as servitude of forced labor. Maxim Pozdorovkin’s enthralling “The Truth About Killer Robots” offers not just a skeptical view of our dependence on robots, and how they may kill us, but is a deeper meditation on how our notion of humanness is being challenged as we quickly outsource much of our humanity to AI, automation, and yes robots, that promise in the next few years to change our lives dramatically.
Director: Dan Taberski
In 1973, the son of a tenant dairy farmer wrote and released the first gay-themed country music album -- but with only 1000 copies made, the album soon disappeared and became a gay urban myth. Forty years later, Lavender Country was rediscovered and lauded by critics as 'resonant and wonderful, ...a rare act of bravery and honesty.' THESE C*CKSUCKING TEARS revisits the voice behind the album - Pat Haggerty, now in his 70s and singing “old songs to old folks” at senior living facilities - as he deals with the resurgence of a musical dream long since given up for dead.
Director: Rishi Chanda
In a cramped apartment in Mumbai, a family considers eating their hell-raising pet rooster, so that they can reclaim their lives.
Director: Kelsey Bennett and Rémy Bennett
Camera-toting iconoclast Jane Rule Burdine has been chronicling the faces and landscapes of rural Mississippi for decades, documenting the complexities of the deep south while bucking all the traditionalism she grew up strapped with.
Director: Sareen Hairabedian
For these war-scarred veterans, the experience of writing, developing and acting in a collaborative poetry performance is a path to what they’ve failed to find elsewhere: a safe space to come together, a venue for expression and a desperately-needed medium for conveying the nuances of trauma.
The Original Originals
David Holbrooke is a filmmaker and cultural entrepreneur, as well as the host and founder of Original Thinkers. In his previous role as the director of Telluride Mountainfilm he inspired and entertained thousands of people every year with his innovative programming and watched nearly three thousand documentaries over the course of a decade. He also directed The Diplomat, a film about his father, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. In this new venture, he seeks to illuminate the role that storytelling plays in a changing society. Holbrooke lives in Telluride, Colorado with his wife Sarah, three kids, two dogs and bunch of chickens (one less after an unfortunate encounter with a hungry bear.)
Nancy Schafer is an independent film producer and consultant. Over the past four years, she’s premiered six feature films at top festivals, all of which have received distribution in the United States. Her last two narrative films, premiered in Competition at SXSW, one of which won the Audience Award. Nancy worked at and ran the Tribeca Film Festival for 11 years—from its inception through 2012. Prior to Tribeca, she created and ran the SXSW Film Festival for eight years.
Gabe Lifton-Zoline grew up in Telluride, successfully ran Obama’s campaign in Colorado, worked as a documentary filmmaker and then helped run the media company RYOT.org. All of those skills come together at Original Thinkers where Gabe is focusing on strategic partnerships and long-term direction.
Danielle Jenkins specializes in experiential education and arts programming. She is passionate about supporting women in the arts and expanding opportunities for youth in resource-poor contexts. Danielle is an ensemble member with Telluride Theatre and company director of the Telluride Dance Collective. Outside of the theatre she can be found at the hockey rink or exploring the desert in her van. Danielle was drawn to Original Thinkers for the opportunities to scheme, dream, problem solve, and build community around shared experiences.
Bebe is a recent alumnae from Brown University where she transcended traditional academic boundaries and majored in Science, Technology and Society, which uses both rational analysis and interpretive inquiry to respond knowledgeably, reflectively, and responsibly to the most pressing challenges of today. Bebe is passionate about cross-disciplinary integration, civic engagement, and sharing the resources with which to evaluate knowledge production and co-constructed societal practices and institutions.
Geneva Shaunette is an event producer, cannabis industry consultant, and a member of Telluride Town Council. In her 9 years of living in Telluride she has gained extensive experience working in bars, restaurants, outdoor education, and the cannabis industry. She is passionate about civic engagement, new ideas, community partying, and keeping Telluride weird. She loves her wife Laura, New Orleans brass music, tapas, salty cocktails, and witty political t-shirts.
Laura Shaunette is a community programming and storytelling enthusiast. She and her wife Geneva founded The Downlow, a local storytelling event, in 2014 with Telluride Theatre, which is currently being developed into a podcast. In 2018 they also developed Back Pocket Creative, a custom event company. She aspires to cultivate spaces where people feel comfortable being themselves, and encouraged to collaborate and further understand one another. Her other passions include cooking, camping, and dancing to funky horns and handclaps.
Good Looking Stuff
Stephen Rockwood is a graphic designer based in Santa Barbara, CA. He specializes in brand identity, art direction and illustration.
Creative by any medium necessary she designs websites, brands, and environments. Ideas originator, creative, dot-connector, and learning enthusiast Olivia is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Sustainable Design. Her mission is to design within sustainable frameworks using her craft as a tool to meet the needs of the present without compromising the possibilities of future generations. She joined the Original Thinkers team to build an easy to digest platform so that these big ideas can be granted awareness and action towards positive change.