Draft Script




Mechanical Sympathy


Tom McDermott











A medical chart is attached to the foot of the bed. It reflects the patient’s deteriorating health. This is displayed in frequency response graphs which are shown to have been getting progressively worse over the past few days.

On the patient’s bedside table there are various items. An audio equipment magazine is visible, its front cover featuring the latest in digital personal audio players. Beside the magazine is what looks like a box of tissues – in fact they are screen wipes. The table also contains a tub of cotton buds and a tablets – these are revealed to be LR44 batteries. The shelf below has some screwdrivers of varying sizes. A vase of coloured wires, with their ends splayed outwards to form a flower shape, adds a bit of colour to an otherwise dull room.

An array of machines are stationed at the bedside. All are whirring and clicking and performing a specific observing or assisting duty. It is clear that the patient is in a critical condition and these machines are providing life support. Suspended above the cluster of machines is an intravenous drip bag containing a black liquid. The label on the bag says “WD40 – 450ml”.

The wires are bunched together and all run in the same direction – to the patient. The IV tube is being fed deep inside the machine along with the various other wires.

Inside the patient there is a beating heart. There are various wires running in and out of the various arteries – RED wires in the arteries and BLUE for the veins. The heart is beating slowly and mechanically. This is the heart of a machine.

An old reel to reel TAPE MACHINE is lying on the bed. Attached to it are a set of 70’s style chrome headphones. The headphones have a medical ID wristband attached. The bed has crisp white sheets (apart from an ominous, fresh-looking oil stain) and one thin white pillow which is propping the machine up slightly. It’s outer cover has been removed and is suspended above the machine by a string and pulley contraption normally used to restrict movement of a patient’s limb.

The machine is in a bad shape. Silver duct tape is holding some parts together as is some twine. It is very dusty and old looking.  One of the devices is a microphone which is monitoring one of the speakers on the machine. This data is shown as a frequency response on one of the life support monitors.

The tape machine is active and a spool of tape is being passed through the appropriate erase and play heads before being collected by the corresponding empty spool opposite it. This action is assisted by one of the life support machines which is turning one of the internal wheels of the machine which in turn moves the spools. It is obvious that if this wheel didn’t turn then the machine would stop playing.

Behind the spools reveals the face of the machine. A set of eyes, eyebrows, a nose and a mouth are clearly identifiable. The face is visibly sad. A wash of cold blue light bolsters this feeling of melancholy.

The tape machine looks out through the slowly turning spools. It’s vision range is limited but can just about make out a few photographs in cheap frames which have been placed at his bedside. The first one that comes into view is him and his Cassette Player bride at the steps of a church. She is wearing a wedding veil and he a bow tie. The scene in the photo begins to play like a video clip as memory takes over…



The church doors open as the bride and groom shuffle out into the sunlight. There is the sound of applause as well as Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. Both machines are sparkling clean and the bride’s veil is blowing slightly in the wind. Their respective headphone sets are linked together to represent this new bond. The sounds get distant with increasing reverberation as the memory fades.


The machine’s heart rate has increased slightly and both the heart itself and the monitoring machines reflect this change. This memory clearly has had an impact on the Tape Machine.

The picture frame beside that shows a small red cassette Walkman and a small think pair of headphones with bright orange earpads. Again the picture starts to animate as the Tape Machine recalls a past memory…



Both Cassette Player and Tape Machine stand either side of a crib, peering in at their newborn baby. The crib is a product box with the lid open and lined with a small blanket. The Red Walkman is cooing and gurgling inside. The parents’ headphones are still linked together. This memory soon fades too.


The heart now has begun to beat quicker than before and the beeping from the life support machines have increased and become louder. New warning noises have also begun to sound. The WD40 drip is almost empty at this stage and the reel being played on the machine is about three quarters of the way through.

The Tape Machine looks away from the photographs, allowing his gaze to rest on a bottle of isopropyl alcohol. This liquid is normally used in minute doses to clean the play heads of such tape machines. Upon seeing the alcohol the Tape Machine becomes extremely anxious and a new warning sound begins to repeat from the life support. This sound is extremely shrill and suggests some sort of emergency. Oil begins to leak from the machine as it starts to rattle and shake.

Flashes of memories appear as the Tape Machine appears to be having a seizure.


INT. Grubby ROOM – LAte 80’s

The tape machine is surrounded by bottles of Isopropyl Alcohol. Many of the bottles are empty and lying on their side. The Tape Machine’s play heads are dripping with the liquid. The Tape Machine’s tape reel is playing erratically.

The Tape Machine has drunk so much that it goes on to get sick. This is represented by the tape that is being passed through the heads getting snarled and tangled up.


The machine is shaking uncontrollably. Parts are starting to fly off as a result and some of the life support wires have become detached. Clear liquid is forming around the eyes of the machine. It appears to be crying.


INT. Grubby ROOM – LAte 80’s

A close up of the linked headphones. The bond is broken as the Cassette Player removes her headphones and pulls away and leaves him.


Black liquid is leaking from the heart as it continues to beat at an extremely fast pace. The tape reel is still playing and is almost finished.


INT. Grubby ROOM – LAte 80’s

The tape Machine stands alone looking into the now empty crib. The child has also left.


The Tape Machine gives a final jolt. Suddenly the magnetic tape finishes playing from the reel and Red closing leader tape passes through the play heads. As it does, the machine stops shaking, the heart stops beating and the machine becomes very still. The life support also becomes silent apart from a 1KHz tone signifying the death of the Tape Machine.

The leader tape finishes playing onto the collection spool. This spool spins quicker now that it is not pulling tape through a series of play heads. A section of leader tape is protruding and causing a flapping sound as it hits various parts of the machine as it revolves. This continues for a few moments until the play head pops back up and the room is completely silent. The number dial reads ‘0000’. The headphone set has fallen to the floor.

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