Here’s my thing: When I was first learning the craft of screenwriting, all this chatter seemingly everywhere about shoulds and musts re format, style, structure, and what-not, I discovered Miyazaki movies. They defy many of the conventions of Hollywood storytelling… and yet somehow they just work.
So I look at a movie like Whiplash which has one of THE best third acts in recent memory… whatever transpired in the story up to that point must work… because the final act just flat-out works.
Ultimately what we do as writers is what I call “wrangling magic.” Stories, no matter how much we try to box them up in order to get a hold of them, are organic entities. Why? Because the characters have free will, and their own wants and needs.
I guess it’s because as I’ve gotten older and the number of scripts I read and movies I watch creeps up into the tens of thousands, I have a growing respect for writers who feel their way through process. Yes, we need our left brain to shape and prod and tweak and edit, but most importantly, we need our right brain to engage our characters first and foremost to see where they need to go. And if they veer away from convention, so be it.
At the end of the day, the story rules. We, as writers, need to respect each story we write and wherever it needs to go.