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Behind the scenes at the Scottish Poetry Library

The Thursday Post: First Line Films

FILMMAKING! by chrisjtse, under a Creative Commons licence

At one time, filmmaking was the preserve of film studios. Whereas poetry only needs one person, one pen (and maybe not even a pen), big budget films need expensive equipment and large crews. Thanks to technology, however, today, as long as you have a mobile phone, it’s as easy to make a short film as it is to write a sonnet.

We’re all big film fans at the SPL. For National Poetry Day, we’ve come up with a way to combine our passions – and we need the help of schools!

To mark NPD, eight poems have been chosen on the theme of ‘light’. These are available as FREE specially-designed cards. We’d love schools to make trailers for the poems based on their first lines. Like trailers, the idea is to make you want to see / read the entire film / poem.

The films don’t need to be super-long – in fact, the shorter, the better (no more than 25 seconds, please). They are meant to be trailers, after all. We’re not expecting masterpieces. Imagination is as important as technical skill. It’s meant to be fun!

Films can be made on phones, iPads or more conventional recording equipment if you have it. We really like Vine, which is an app that allows you to make 7-second films, but we wouldn’t dream of telling you budding Tarantinos how to make your films; other cameras and movie apps are fine.

The poems (and their first lines) include:

‘Night Monkey, Day Monkey’ by Julia Donaldson
“The moon shone down on the jungle.”

‘The Dark’ by Carol Ann Duffy
‘If you think of the dark…’

‘My Shadow’ by Robert Louis Stevenson
“I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me.”

“In the wall there sticks a little switch.”

‘Light’ by Margaret Tait
“Did you say it’s made of waves?”

‘Hope’ by Maoilios Caimbeul

‘In the Dark’ by Robin Fulton Macpherson
‘God said: Let the dark be dark.

‘The Blue Boat’ by Kathleen Jamie
‘How late the daylight edges…’

First Line Films was inspired by one of the NPD poets, Margaret Tait, who was a poet and a filmmaker (and a scientist). You can see her short films on YouTube.

We’d love to share your films in the run up to National Poetry Day which is on 8 October this year. Either send it to us at or, if it’s a Vine or you have already uploaded it to YouTube or social media, please send us a link to the film and make sure you have tagged it with ⧣1stlinefilms. Please put First Line Films as the title of your email and don’t forget to tell us which school or library you’re from and which poem your trailer is about. We’ll share the trailers on Twitter, Facebook and Making Makars our education blog.

Want to see the trailer we made for Robert Louis Stevenson's 'My Shadow'?

While we’re focussing on encouraging schools to take part, there’s no reason why anyone with the ability to make a #1stlinefilm shouldn’t have a go too. Whether you’re 8 or 80, send us your trailers and we’ll share them via our social media.

Any other questions, don’t hesitate to contact our Georgi at

Category: learning, National Poetry Day