Scott Simmons over at "the Edit Blog" has a great post about the importance of good audio in productions. It's a good read.
I have to agree. I have seen far too many movies made by people (including me) who really know how to make an image look good, but don't win anything at festivals because the audio was poor. Bad audio affects your audience more than a bad image.
So, how do you balance this as an aspiring filmmaker?
1. Focus on story. That is the most important thing. You can have the most beautifully shot, best mixed movie in the world, but if your story is lacking, no one cares... except film geeks who like the look and sound. Much like "Children of Men", which is a technically amazing movie that lacks a story. So, yeah, it's cool, but not a good movie.
2. Practice. If you're still starting out and want to make a cool "DP Reel", go out and shoot good looking shots. But if you're making a movie, put story before image quality. I have heard so many filmmakers freak out because they think the hat might not be perfect for the actor, when their story, not to mention their shot composition, is terrible. Please, get good images, but film is about stories, not pretty pictures. Much like having a good print job may make a book more enjoyable, your images should enhance your tale, but they are not the basis of your movie.
3. Work at audio. Read about it. Practice it. Get help and advice from sound people. Sound is incredibly hard to manipulate well, so you need to work on it. Without great sound, a really good film could easily be passed over for an award.
So, yes, what your audience can't hear (or doesn't want to hear) will hurt your movie.
Your Media Production Mentor