Posted on 10th December 2020

How Animated Film Sol Earned 3 Star albert Certification

Sol – an inspiring film about a little boy’s journey through grief – premieres in the UK and Republic of Ireland on the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice, Monday 21 December.

In a first for UK broadcasting, CITV, ITV Hub, ALL 4, My5, TG4, S4C and BBC ALBA will be jointly airing Sol, an animated film aiming to bring light and comfort to families with young children as the darkest year in modern times draws to a close.

We spoke to Grainne McGuinness, Creative Director, and Gavin Halpin, Managing Director, of Belfast-based Paper Owl Films about how the environment and sustainability were weaved into the production and the film itself, earning the animation a 3 star albert certification.

Sol was greenlit last year before COVID, but it became particularly poignant and relevant in the current climate. It's been a year in the making with roughly 40 crew involved at any one time. The pandemic changed everything, and we found working remotely did have environmental benefits - less travel, less commuting, in fact the entire project was produced during the lockdown

— Gavin Halpin, Producer of Sol

The film follows a boy called Sol whose world is plunged into darkness when his beloved grandmother dies, and he is sent on an urgent quest to find the light that has gone out in the world, Sol’s adventurous journey enables him to realise his love for his grandmother is greater than the pain of his loss.

Sol explores the different aspects of grief (shock, yearning, disorientation and resolution) through the eyes of a child, themes which are especially poignant after such a difficult year nationwide, and hopes to bring comfort to families and help spark conversations amongst teachers, parents and young children about how to manage your feelings after the death of a loved one.

Additionally, Sol incorporates ideas around the shared Celtic languages and wisdom implicit to the British Isles and within that, the idea of our shared experiences on the earth and the need to protect and look after it.

Sol highlights the beauty, wisdom and age of our world - apple trees, blue skies, the earth and soil. We used textures and the physicality of memories through photographs and scrap books, for example leaf pressings, to subtly weave in the themes around respect for the planet and each other.

— Grainne McGuinness, Creator of Sol

The team at Paper Owl Films had used the albert calculator before and were required to use albert Certification as part of their funding agreement, but were enthusiastic about embedding sustainability principles and practices from the start, giving the team greater satisfaction than simply calculating their impact at the end of production.

The process began with a Green Memo, sent to the entire production team, outlining Sol’s intentions to be an albert certified production and explaining how the team were going to achieve it.

albert’s production training had provided a good starting point for the core team members, highlighting lots of opportunities for practical ways to reduce impact.


The production team had calculated 85% of their carbon footprint would be produced from the office, and presented some ‘Office Green Goals’ in their Green Memo to help reduce it. Goals included:

  • Turning off lights and keeping desk lamp use to a minimum, using natural light when possible
  • Opening windows rather than turning on fans during the heat
  • Conversely, closing doors rather than turning on the heating when it was cold
  • Shutdown of equipment, lights and closing of doors after hours
  • Removal of water coolers from the animation and sound studios
  • Keeping a smaller fridge in the kitchen and limiting use of the dishwasher to once a day

Key players on the production team were given overall responsibility for keeping the team on track of their sustainability goals, which was key to making sure that when things got busy, they didn’t lose sight of their goals.

Assigning this responsibility to a junior member was great for their morale, and initiatives like meat free Mondays were positive for the whole team – everyone felt like they were contributing.

“It does take the entire team to buy in for something like this – there’s little to be gained on sustainable initiatives if you don’t go 100% in. Our case study won’t be one of hardship – our sustainability practices just had to be very well organised”, concluded Gavin.

Sol premieres on the 21st of December on the following channels:

  • 18:30 on S4C (in Welsh), TG4 (in Irish), BBC ALBA (in Scottish Gaelic)
  • 19:30 on CiTV (with English subtitles)
  • On Demand: iTV Hub, All 4, My5 (with English subtitles)

Find out more about Paper Owl Films on their website

Sol was commissioned by Celtic broadcasters TG4, S4C and BBC ALBA and distributed by Aardman. It received funding from the government funded Young Audiences Content Fund, which is managed by the BFI and supports the creation of distinct, high-quality content for young audiences, and from Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund and Screen Fund.