This week, on May 5, my family had the privilege of gathering at the InterContinental Boston for Gordon College’s 3rd annual Celebration of Faithful Leadership Dinner. The college honored SixSeeds team member Micheal Flaherty, President of Walden Media, which has produced some of your family’s favorite films. The studio has created movies like The Chronicles of Narnia, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Charlotte’s Web, Because of Winn Dixie, Waiting for Superman, Won’t Back Down, and many more.
Here’s how the Deseret News described Mike and Walden Media:
Twenty miles northwest of Boston, in the town of Concord, there is a lake called Walden Pond.
One-point-seven miles around, surrounded by hundreds of acres of red maple and river birch trees, and 102 feet deep at its center, Walden Pond always had a strong gravitational pull on Massachusetts native Micheal Flaherty. In the late 1980s, for example, the filmmaker would recur there for reflection and perspective while a student at nearby Tufts University.
“Walden,” the memoir transcendentalist author Henry David Thoreau wrote about his two-year stint living on the shores of Walden Pond from 1845-47, holds indelible sway in Flaherty’s soul — especially what he terms “the whole idea that we need to march to the beat of a different drummer.”
When Flaherty and former college roommate Cary Granat founded a film company in 2001, they called it Walden Media. Their organization differs from traditional movie studios because it produces family-friendly films that Flaherty describes as “entertaining but (that) also demonstrate the rewards of knowledge and virtue.” In his capacity as Walden’s president Flaherty insists on turning value-driven stories — the kind children can learn from — into movies.
His success, the article goes on to say, “coupled with an ability to consistently march to a different beat, makes Micheal Flaherty one of the most compelling figures in Hollywood.”
The founders of SixSeeds, Winchester residents John and Jean Kingston, agree. In fact, they founded SixSeeds to help parents think thoughtfully through how to raise children, and they realize movies, books, and culture plays a large role in shaping our children’s philosophies of life.
During the fifth century BC, Damon of Athens is quoted as saying, “Give me the songs of a nation, and it matters not who writes its laws.” Perhaps a more modern translation might begin “give me the movies of a nation.”
What began as a “mom and pop” organization in Winchester has since grown into a well-read and regarded online magazine as part of the nation’s largest religious website, Patheos. Mike’s work in film nicely epitomizes John and Jean’s vision for important, character building pieces of art. As part of the “President’s Circle,” John and Jean helped Gordon College meet and exceed their fundraising goals for the evening’s dinner. Money raised will go to a scholarship fund.
Patricia Heaton, best known from her role on Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle, honored Mike at the event. During her speech, she talked about her unique experiences in Hollywood and encouraged the Christian community to engage the industry.
“You have to earn the right to speak into Hollywood,” she said.
Mike definitely has earned that right. During his acceptance speech, he explained how he decided to start Walden Media after discovering that the Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold loved watching movies like Natural Born Killers.
He and his wife Kelly decided to figure out how to make movies that would inspire people in a positive way. Walden Media now is a powerhouse, specializing in virtuous entertainment for the whole family.
It was an inspirational night, honoring a man whose art is shaping the way the culture thinks about entertainment and culture.