Does your film sound like a real movie?

About your sound mix…

Sound mix

It’s not enough that your independent film looks like a real movie—it has to sound like one, too. That’s why the sound mix is so important.

If your sound mix is lacking, your audience will find it difficult to engage with and connect with your film.

Your sound mix is just as important as the visuals in your film—maybe more important. If you don’t believe me, watch a movie you’re unfamiliar with and mute the audio. Can you follow the story?

Now try listening to a film with your eyes closed. I’ll bet you’ll have no trouble following the story.

Plan ahead

You can’t start thinking about the sound mix at the end of the project. During pre-production, be sure you take the time to plan and budget the sound mix for your film.

You’ll do the sound mix for your film during post-production. In the sound mix process, you combine the dialog (including ADR), ambiance (what the location “sounds like”), music, and sound effects to create the audio soundtrack for your film.

Can you do the sound mix yourself?

You might be able to do it yourself or you can hire a professional. It depends on your technical abilities and the budget.

If you are going to use a sound mixing facility, get in touch with them as early as possible, before you begin filming, to find out what they are going to need from you to do a proper mix. For example, you need to record “room tone” for every location in your film so it can be used during the mix.

Ask the sound mixing facility what you can do to make the process go as smoothly and quickly as possible.

The more prepared you are, the faster the mixing process will go. This will make it less stressful for everyone and less expensive.

Professional sound mixing services can be expensive. I would ask if they can work with you on pricing. Some facilities offer more affordable options for low-budget independent projects. Don’t be afraid to ask.

If you are going to do the mix, learn as much as you can about sound mixing for film. has sound mixing courses using Logic Pro, Pro Tools, or Audition. I recommend taking those courses even if you’re mixing with Audacity,  GarageBand, or some other tool.

There are other film sound mixing courses available online. Find them using your favorite search engine.

You can also find some good instructional videos for free on YouTube. If you have the time and interest, you can learn how to mix your film yourself without spending much (or any) money.

If you have a great sound mix for your indie film, your project will have an edge over most of the other indie projects in the market. Your film will sound like a “real” movie.

Bonus: What is verisimilitude and why do I care?

Verisimilitude is the “lifelikeness” or believability of a work of fiction. (from Wikipedia)

Adding little audio details to your mix can make your scenes seem more realistic. For example, a director friend of mine often adds a few seconds of the sound of dogs barking (from off in the distance) for interior scenes she shoots in suburban homes.

When people watch an interior scene and hear those dogs barking in the background, they are pulled right into that scene. The sound triggers memories of all the times they’ve been inside a house and heard dogs barking outside.

Small audio details like this, carefully added to the mix, can really help sell those scenes and make them more believable.

As always


Bad independent films are preventable

The truth about independent filmmakers

We celebrate the independent filmmaker success stories: Kevin Smith’s Clerks, Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi, Edward Burns’ The Brothers McMullen.

Theses stories and others like them inspire people everywhere to go out and start making movies. Each year, hundreds, if not thousands, of low-budget independent films are produced in every genre imaginable.

Here is the sad truth: most independent movies are terrible, even unwatchable. They make no money—for the filmmaker or investors.

If you don’t believe me, sample some low budget movies on Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, or YouTube.

Go watch a few right now. I’ll wait…

Pretty sad, isn’t it?

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Why they suck

Before we get to the reasons, let me first say this:

Bad independent films are preventable!

Two-person film crew

I don’t want to discourage anyone from making movies. Quite the contrary, I want to see more independent movies.

I just want to stop you from making BAD movies.

The best way to avoid making bad movies is to understand why so many people make bad movies and avoid making those same mistakes.

Most independent films fail because:

  • The script is terrible
  • The acting is amateurish
  • The production quality is awful

Script and story problems

You can’t make a great film out of a lousy script, especially on a small budget.

Most indie films have poor scripts. The screenwriter usually doesn’t understand story, structure, conflict, theme, plot, character, or much else about film scripts.

This is entirely preventable.

You can learn screenwriting from books, videos, classes, workshops, and other resources. Most of these resources are free or inexpensive.

Once you learn how to write a screenplay, you have to write screenplays—lots of screenplays. It takes a lot of practice to become a good screenwriter.

You also need good feedback on your scripts. Get feedback from knowledgeable people. Learn from that feedback and improve your scripts.

I get it, you’re impatient and want to start making your movie right away.

Do not make your movie until your script is amazing.

Quick side note: follow me on Twitter (@mediamitch) for links to good screenwriting and other filmmaking resources. Never stop learning!

Atrocious acting

I watched several trailers for new indie films last weekend. Few of these films had good or even decent acting.

Almost everyone recognizes bad acting when they see it. Bad acting is hard to watch and listen to.

The audience cannot take your film seriously if the acting is bad.

Do not put your friends (and yourself) in your movie (unless you happen to be talented actors).

Find good actors. Hold auditions. Get the right actors for the roles. Find a way to pay them.

Do not skip this step. Your movie will not succeed without good actors.

Bad production quality

Most low-budget films look and sound terrible. It’s obvious the director, camera operator, and sound person have no idea what they’re doing.

Luckily, you can learn what you need to know about shooting and lighting a movie with free or inexpensive online resources.

Education is a wonderful thing.

For example, you can learn not to shoot on locations with plain white walls.

You can learn how to properly operate a boom (and find out what a “boom” is).

Spend some time on YouTube learning about cinematography, lighting, recording location sound, set designing and set dressing, directing, editing, sound design—the list is endless.

Better yet, use a small, experienced crew. If you can’t afford experienced crew, build your filmmaking team and make sure they learn the filmmaking skills required for their roles.

Finally, a common problem in too many indie films is bad sound.

Don’t neglect the audio. Poor sound quality will ruin your movie and make it unbearable to sit through.

Your next step

Once your team is in place, you’ve found good actors, and your script is amazing, make a short film. You will learn more from making this short film than a formal film school education.

Once you complete the short film, learn from it. Does it look like a real movie? Does it sound like a real movie? Is it entertaining? Have you told a good story? Does it all work?

Get feedback on your short film and lots of it. Listen to this feedback and learn from it.

Enter your short film in festivals and contests and see how you stack up against the competition.

Have you learned all you can from this experience? Good, now go make your next short film.

Do not attempt to make your movie until you can make really good short films. Here’s a simple litmus test: if your short films are really good, they should be getting noticed at the film festivals and winning film contests.

Are you ready?

Have you reached the point where your short films are really good?

NOW you can make your movie.


As always


Now comes the fun part: pre-production

Pre-production and adding cool stuff

Steampunk cosplay

We are making our science fiction movie on the podcast! You can also watch our movie-making activities live on the Sci-Fi Maker Facebook page.

This week on the Sci-Fi Maker Show, I get script feedback from Bubba and we start brainstorming ideas for the shoot.

I finished the script for the short film based on “Planet Burlesque”, which is our 2017 feature film project. My producing partner, William Bubba Flint has some great suggestions we can incorporate into the script.

I’m pretty excited about this because these suggestions can take the short film to “the next level”.

We are moving from the development phase to the pre-production phase where we start production planning.

Also, a filmmaking friend of mine is offering to help – that’s always welcome. Thank you, Chris!

This week, I’ll be reaching out to a hard-working assistant director to see if she’s interested in participating. She could certainly make things go smoothly on this project.

Here’s the pre-production stuff we need to do next:

  • Develop our list of cool shot ideas
  • Find and secure a location – we need a parking lot and adjacent building or house
  • Schedule a shooting day
  • Start casting
  • Lots of other details

If you want to stay in the loop as we make our short film and our feature, “Planet Burlesque”, you can subscribe to The Sci-Fi Maker Show on iTunes and you can “like” our Facebook page.

Stay tuned! We’re making our movie on the Internet!

As always


Rewrite and watch what happens

Add some magic to your script

Cosplayer from Dallas Comic-Con

Want to add some magic to your film script?


Rewriting is where the good stuff happens.

“Writing is rewriting” may be a cliche, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Unlike a lot of writers, I look forward to finishing the rough draft so I can get to the good part – rewriting.

Once you finish your first draft, the pressure is off. Congratulations! You’ve conquered the blank page!

Writing is rewriting, and most professional writers advise getting through the first draft quickly so there’s something on the page to begin to rewrite. (And rewrite and rewrite again.)

This quote came from 5 Easy Ways to Conquer Your First Draft on the ScreenCraft website. This article describes five methods to get that first draft done so you can get to the rewriting.

I found some great rewriting advice from Mike Schneider on Quora.

  1. Don’t be precious with your script. Everything you’ve written can be cut or changed.
  2. Send your script out for feedback from some knowledgeable readers.  Don’t resist the feedback – listen. If you hear the same feedback from more than one person, you probably need to change that part.
  3. Spend some time away from the script to get a fresh perspective.
  4. Rewrite from the beginning.

Don’t forget, most people never even finish the first draft of their script. Celebrate that and move on to the rewriting!

How many rewrites should I do?

Everyone is different. Some writers do one or two and others might do 50.

I did a quick search on Reddit and found a writer who typically does seven drafts. The process goes like this:

  1. Rough draft. Some writers do this as quickly as possible to get everything on the page. This is often called a “vomit draft”.
  2. Put the script away for a couple of weeks.
  3. Major rewrite – this is when you cut scenes, move them, add new ones, change dialog, and move plot points.
  4. Put the script away for a couple of weeks.
  5. Polish rewrite – fine tune dialog and improve conflict within scenes.
  6. Send your script out for feedback.
  7. Spend a week processing the feedback. Decide what to keep and what to ignore.
  8. Big rewrite incorporating the feedback you decided to keep.
  9. Put the script away for a couple of weeks.
  10. Polish draft incorporating the feedback.
  11. Put the script away for a couple of weeks.
  12. Read the script and make some tweaks.
  13. Send your script out for feedback. The feedback should be smaller and scene specific this time.
  14. Make the changes based on this new feedback right away.
  15. Stop

During those two-week waiting periods, keep writing. Either write something new or revise something else. Just keep writing.

Rewriting the script for the “Planet Burlesque” short

5 cosplayers
5 cosplayers who are not in the short film

I wrote the first draft of the short film script, based on the world we are creating for our feature film in 2017, “Planet Burlesque”.

I was able to finish this draft quickly because it’s only five pages long and I plotted it out earlier using Evernote. You can even watch me write the entire script in real time on our Facebook page.

I sent the script to my producer on the project, William “Bubba” Flint, for feedback.

He read the script, but won’t be back in town to give me feedback until at least tomorrow. I’m going to record his script feedback so you can hear all of it on the next episode of The Sci-Fi Maker Show.

I won’t wait very long to incorporate his feedback into the next draft of the script. Another rewrite or two and we should be ready to start planning the shoot.

We will broadcast the planning, casting, and shooting of the “Planet Burlesque” short film live on video from our Facebook page.

You heard me, you can watch us make our movie LIVE on Facebook!

If you “like” our Facebook page, you should receive notifications whenever our videos are live.

We’ll also include some of our planning meetings on the podcast.

Your action plan

If you really want to make a science fiction film, it’s time to start (if you haven’t already). I strongly recommend making a short first.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but it isn’t rocket science either:

  1. Write your first draft
  2. Rewrite, feedback, and rewrite
  3. Make your film

As always