I am a director from Central Pennsylvania. I've work on numerous projects as an actor, written short narratives, and produced my own work, but my passion is directing.
I agree with everything you said, but I think you blew your budget.
Can you recommend a place where we can find a selection of used name brand lights? Not being facetious. I'd love to get my hands on some used 4-banks!
It's hard to answer your question without knowing more specifics, but one thing that has really helped me grow as a storyteller is to just go do it. Fincher said something like, "around the time I finish a film, I feel like I'm prepared to make it." My translation: Make your movies, and the process will teach you what you need to know. Once you've finished a film, you'll know what you needed to do in the beginning to make it great. Take that knowledge and use it on the next project.
Lighting is just like anything else. It's not necessarily all about what tools you are using. It's much more important that you know how to use them.
Do you need more than one light? Technically you can shoot with available light, so... no. You don't need it. That said, when you get into the artistry of cinematic lighting it's pretty important to have a few. A standard kit will have at least three lights (so you can execute three point lighting).
There is no "one light fits all" scenario. In some cases the best light for the job is an incandescent bulb inside a china ball hanging from a c-stand.
If you want to invest in some professional lighting, I would either save up some more money, or get a less expensive 3 light kit from ikan or something. Or you could get really inexpensive CPL softbox lighting lighting kit from amazon until you can take the plunge into an arri kit.
Interestingly, it's not a problem of levels. Even if I crank the volume to the point where it is nearly clipping I still can't hear it unless I pop on some headphones. It seems to be problem with pitch and the capabilities of these speakers to handle it. The sounds I'm specifically dealing with are very low ominous tones, and they are meant to be subtle and understated. That said, I want them to be audible. Do you think it's possible that my speakers are shot?
My main concern is that it is very feasible to imagine that the online submission screener might be viewed on a Macbook. If this is the case they will hear the dialog, and "get" the story, but they will be missing a lot of the mood. I owe it to the film, and the people who worked on it, to make it work on all viewing platforms.
Once it gets into a festival, I can worry about mixing the sound for the specific delivery method they use.
It's really a matter of taste, but if I was working on a budget and could only get one or two lights, I'd be looking at bi-color LED lights with a built in dimmer. These lights are versatile, light weight, and low maintenance. Some can even be powered by batteries making them an even more valuable tool. If you go this route, you'll want to invest in some light modification as well; specifically you will want to have various diffusion methods at your disposal to soften the light.
Fluorescent lighting is also pretty great, but isn't as versatile in my mind. If your shooting videos for youtube, I'd stick with LED lights unless you happen to be independently wealthy.