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A story canon is theoretically combining two (or three) films which serve as a metaphor to describe the story or plot of a screenplay, teleplay or a work yet to be produced. Typically the identified films are of such quality (a film canon) or are so distinct that they serve as the measuring stick for the highest quality in the genre of film and are readily identifiable to the recipient.
A pitch often includes a story canon to allow the listener to understand the tone of the story. In Robert Altman’s The Player, such hybrids as, “It’s Ghost meets The Manchurian Candidate” and “Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman" are mentioned. Although some seem to take offense to this practice, it is widely used throughout the industry and remains an effective way to communicate the “feel” and tone of the story – both of which can be difficult to understand without actually reading the script itself. Careful thought must go into creating a story canon.
Other examples include:
Remains of the Day meets Atonement to describe a story where emotional repression is combined with lying, guilt and penitence. The recipient can then envision a world of staid formalism disrupted by deceit and regret.
Toy Story meets Pulp Fiction is an example of using a story canon to demonstrate the absurdity of an idea. When a story or plot seems unworkable, the story canon can be used to metaphorically demonstrate the absurdity of it.