The tragedy of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings affected Micheal Flaherty in ways he didn’t expect.
“It was a great time of crisis for me,” said Flaherty, keynote speaker Wednesday morning at the 44th annual Wichita Prayer Breakfast at Century II Convention Hall.
Flaherty, president of Walden Media, told the 800 people in attendance that he became “depressed and discouraged” after learning of the shootings.
During his personal crisis, Flaherty said, he began to re-examine his Christian faith. He said he was moved by stories such as that of slain student Cassie Bernall, who some believe was killed after she answered “yes” when a gunman asked her: “Do you believe in God?”
He said the story inspired him to recommit his life to Jesus.
Flaherty said he was disturbed by something else he had heard about the Columbine shooters: They had watched the film, “Natural Born Killers” numerous times.
An entrepreneur and educator, Flaherty had been thinking about getting involved in filmmaking.
Soon after the shootings, he got a call from a friend who was president of a successful film studio that made movies not often suitable for children.
The two talked about the lack of inspirational and wholesome films, and Flaherty asked: “Why don’t we create a new kind of production company that exclusively makes films that all kinds of families can enjoy and also teaches them something, inspires them and engages them?”
After a year of searching for an investor, Flaherty and his friend found one: Kansas native Phil Anschutz, a billionaire investor and founder of Qwest Communications.
Walden Media was created by Flaherty and his friend. The company has produced films such as “Because of Winn-Dixie” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
“It turned out to be a great success for us,” Flaherty said of “Narnia.” The film has grossed more than $700 million.
Other speakers during the prayer breakfast included Jim Schaus, athletic director at Wichita State University.
An active churchgoer while growing up, Schaus said there was “something missing” in his life. While he may have seemed fine to others, “on the inside, there really wasn’t true peace.”
Schaus said that it wasn’t until he was a freshman in college, after hearing Christian speaker Josh McDowell, that he accepted Jesus as his Savior.
“The relief that I felt that my search was finally over, that all the sin that I had was forgiven