I realize this isn't a typical question for SSD -- we almost never talk about the film making process, because most of the stuff we do is post. But, I'm doin' it!

I've run into something of a dilemma where the people I know who are making movies and want me to do sound aren't making movies that I think will be any good (or any fun, which is more the case), and the people I know who are making films I'd love to do sound for won't let me do it, even for free. I realize that finishing my demo reel would probably fix a chunk of this problem.

Even still, there are some things that I would love to do the sound for that I can't even validly hope they'll land on my plate. For this example, I'll use the current desire: a post-apocalyptic western that's NOT a space western. Very similar to The Book of Eli, in fact.

So, I've taken it upon myself that if no one is going to make it, then I might as well so I can at least do the sound for it.

Which leads me to my actual question: after I have a decent script, what do I do with it? Is finding a producer the next step in this process?

Also, since I'm asking, have any of you done something like this, or know of any sound designers that are also writers?

6 Answers 6


Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Then put it down, wait, and rewrite some more. A decent script will make a decent to terrible movie. A great script will make a great to terrible movie. Until that script is PERFECT, don't go forward with the idea of shooting.

Watch Tales From the Script (on netflix watch it now).

After that, it depends on what you want to do with the film. Do you want to direct it? Produce it? Fund it? Sell your script? Do everything - write, direct, star, edit, score, etc?

Get a budget together. There are tons of great guidelines to help you. This will determine what you can and can't do. There are projects I have shelved because it is not financially feasible for me to shoot for now.

If you're self-funding on an indie budget, get a producer and director on board. Take the hiring very seriously - they will help create your vision. From there, they will start in to the pre-production process.

You've really got to decide why you're doing this. If it's to have a cool demo piece, get a few friends together, film a 5 minute action scene on a Saturday, and do the sound design. If it's to create a dream film, you've got a lot of work to do before you can even think about doing the sound design.


I just went through this process last month.

We did a short called "bottles", and I was the DP and will do audio post as well. it was a short that'll run about 15 minutes, which felt incredibly long during production. I'd advise against a feature as your first endeavor, go as short as you can go for the first project. Also, don't shoot The Thing You Care About Most as the first project.

First, to echo VC prod - your script probably isn't ready yet. edit it down, cut it, and edit it further. revise until you're absolutely ready and the thing is very very interesting and tight.

Once your script is in place and locked locked locked down, then you are ready to begin preparing.

Get a small core of key people on board that will see this thing through to the end with you. Get creative and technical roles and boundaries down in stone, or there will be problems on the set. Your producer, director, DP and set/props/wardrobe person should all be in this group. They should love your script and be willing to contribute blood sweat and tears to the project until the completion of shooting. This will cost them sleep, money, other opportunities, and lots and lots of time. They will have to work closely with one another throughout the process.

Once your core team is in place the producer will be in charge of recruiting the rest of the crew. Craigslist is that person's frienemy.

While crewing is being done, the DP and director need to get the shot sheet worked out. The shot sheet is a breakdown of the script that describes each individual planned shot including camera angle, camera mount, whether audio is being recorded, location, time of day, and which actors are in the shot. This is intensively time consuming.

From the shot sheet the AD or some other inner circle crew member can create the shooting schedule. The shooting schedule is the bible by which the AD will crack whips and document what's been covered and what hasn't. The process of creating and maintaining a shot sheet is a big logistical challenge even on short films, and is impossible to deal with if the script isn't locked down and agreed upon, because changes in script will lead to ugly continuity issues if not tracked carefully. This is because logistically it often makes sense to shoot the script dramatically out of order so that the schedule can accommodate finite resources like time of day with regard to sunlight, or certain locations or actors to which you may only have limited access due to their own schedules.

People in charge of props, wardrobe and set design will do a separate breakdown.

With all of the planning in place, schedule the shoot and get rolling.

My experience as DP of that short we shot last month was kind of harrowing. Every weekend was two consecutive 12 hour days, which came after many evening hours of work preparing for that weekend's shoot.

The director and I both had to work diplomatically both with each other and with the actors and crew throughout the process. We were all learning at lightspeed and on the fly, which was both exhilarating and exhausting. As DP, I found that I completely lacked the brainspace to watch things like continuity, acting, and wardrobe while I was focusing on everything else like focus, lensing, aperture, backgrounds, shadows and lighting.

In the end, I discovered at least this many things about myself:

  • I'm at least technically able to do the photography part of a short film project
  • I get creatively exhausted when I have no days off
  • I have no desire to DP a feature
  • I love audio
  • I'm still very far away from having a technical DP skillset that allows for exremely creative decisions in the midst of a crew working on a schedule. I found myself finding more creative shots than planned occasionally, but certainly not frequently.
  • I enjoy working with actors
  • days are very very short
  • cloud cover can dramatically impact a shooting schedule.
  • it was easy even for me to dismiss audio on the set. I found myself thinking, "well that's not important, I can do it in post." Now, I'm fully aware of what I'm capable of in post, so maybe I was having those thoughts from a more informed positions than some video guy would, but I was having those thoughts nonetheless.
  • I aspire to do more things, but even shorter formats. Maybe 3 to 7 minute intensely creative shorts.

Overall, I'd recommend the process to anyone that has the time and inclination to do it. Its humbling, inspiring and exhausting, but it give one a perspective that he'd never have otherwise.


I started out writing and producing radio dramas for a community radio station. My sound design skills were pretty awful back then so I keep them hidden now, but it was tons of fun and I'd like to try and find the time to do it again. Radio dramas provide a very interesting writing challenge and one well suited to sound designers. Plus, they don't cost as much as movies. Radio dramas, like books, require all the visual input to be provided by the audience making them an intensely personal experience. If you're just starting out writing, you might want to consider radio dramas as a much lower cost way of getting started. Like VCProd said, rewrite rewrite rewrite but really the best thing would be to write a bunch of scripts and pick the best one.


For my Final Project at the sound school, I wrote an audio-script for the audiobook on one of the Choose Your Own Adventure stories. The format of the script was similar to the radio script, giving info about the proper dialogues and the ambience and the incidental sounds. Since it was an adapted script and was focussed on extremely concise form of the story (from 90 odd pages of the book to 20-odd pages of the script), the challenge was tough.

My suggestion would be, since you are a sound designer, it will be best if you pitch your script in an audio format (an extract may be) along with the text script. The format of the text script should give a good picture to the producers and the audio extract will help in enhancing the feel and fire up the imagination.

And finally be realistic about the feasibility... the film-making process has lots of things beyond script writing. I am sure someone with experience in film-making will guide you properly about that.

  • If I could have two selected answers, I would choose this one as well. Great advice -- I hadn't even thought about incorporating sound into the pitch. Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 17:23

If this is just going to be a pet project I'd suggest doing it as a radio drama. For one thing, you'll be able to be as self-indulgent/vulgar/over-the-top as you damn well please, which in my opinion ends up in better work. If you stop yourself halfway you'll never know how far you could have gone, and if you go too far you can always pull back. Particularly if you're planning to do a post-apocalyptic western (which is actually an idea I've been working on for a while too, though mine has zombies), you want to be able to get really creepy. And I must say that when you hit that perfect line it's the most fulfilling thing in the world to hear a soundscape you've created come together to present a coherent story. Especially without all those annoying pictures distracting you from what's really important.

If you decide to, let me know, we could do a script trade.


In my expereince Sound Designers are sound designers and not script writers.

  • 1
    I understand what you mean but disagree. Many of us have other skills besides sound. A lot of sound designers are also musicians or come from an editing background. I for one like to pick up the odd camera job to shoot concerts or music events because it lets me express myself in other ways other than dancing to the music. :D
    – user6513
    Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 16:49
  • 2
    My job as Sound Designer has taught me enough about filmmaking that I feel like I can confidently direct and shoot a film on my own and even act in it if I wanted to - you learn all about the filmmaking process when you are working in Sound Design. I've learned a lot about pretty much everything in the process.
    – Utopia
    Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 17:55
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    I'll add to this that a sound designer is a storyteller... sometimes sound is not enough and one may feel the urge to tell a story in a different way from time to time, as an exutory. I feel this need quite often, I'll grab my drumsticks, I'll grab my dearest pencil and quality paper, or I'll tell myself a story from inside my head. There's only one step to translating these stories into writing. I believe all medium can be complimented by sound and sound design. Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 20:11

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