Finding Empty Ground

Sun Tzu teaches that we find success by being the first to find the empty ground, that is, the opportunities that others simply haven’t seen. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ opened today. My interest is not in the controversy over the film, but in what it illustrates about the nature of Sun Tzu’s concept of vision. Sun Tzu teaches that opportunities are all around us, but that we cannot see them because of our prejudices and preconceptions. Here, we have a subtitled film that breaks every rule about what a popular film should be. It isn’t feel-good or funny. It offers no fantasy, no special affects, no romance, and no action. It is subtitled. The actors speak dead languages. Everyone who sees it agrees that it is difficult to watch. Yet, it generated the fifth biggest one-day box office in history. Why? Only one reason: it found overlooked ground. Despite the fact that America is 90% Christian, Hollywood refuses to see the opportunity in that market. Literally dozens of anti-religious movies have been made, losing hundreds of millions of dollars. Mover makers have been (and will remain) blind to the opportunity. You see a similar prejudice against family movies, despite the fact that they are constant money makers. One of the reasons G-rated movies are popular is that so few are made. Why?
Sun Tzu explains: every competitive position is built around a philosophy. Philosophy unites the organization and focuses it. However, our philosophy also acts as a filter on our vision, allowing us to see only certain types of opportunities. Hollywood is organized around a philosophy that prevents it from seeing any opportunity in Christian movies or even family movies. Mel Gibson is coming from a different philosophical viewpoint, which allowed him to ignore conventional wisdom. If he wanted to, he could build a huge company built around that philosophy because Hollywood will not change.