Wellington animator, Charlie Faulks, uses a pencil to draw in a sketchbook on his knee while sitting on a bean bag chair.

Charlie Faulks, animator and creator of ‘Bloke of the Apocalypse’.

New Zealand On Air (NZOA) has granted 20-year-old animator Charlie Faulks almost $500,000 to produce his own animated web series. Just a few months ago, the Wellington-based student had no idea such funding even existed. But a chance meeting with Wellington writer, editor, and producer Ben Powdrell changed all that. 

“It’s crazy because I didn’t even know this funding existed! I was just super lucky to be in the right place at the right time to meet the right people who could help me,” says Charlie. 

Inspired by his family and childhood on a Gisborne farm, Charlie created the series from his Mt Cook flat. The horror-comedy follows a father, Bloke, and his son Oliver. The duo combat a zombie apocalypse on their farm in rural New Zealand. Three episodes of the series ‘Bloke of the Apocalypse’ are already on YouTube. Charlie created the series between his studies at Massey University. He is in his third year of study for a Bachelor of Screen Arts. 

Initially, Charlie sought funding through Wellington animation studio Floating Rock’s annual event, Pitchfest. It’s where Kiwi creatives submit their ideas for animated TV series or film. If they are voted through to the final round, they win a prize of $110,000. Floating Rock also helps to create the perfect pitch for distributors. 

Charlie’s pitch only made it through the first round at Pitchfest. But, it’s where he met producer Ben. Ben was pitching a hybrid animation gross-out comedy for kids called ‘STINKY PITS’ with his 10-year-old daughter, Frida. 

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Recognising Charlie’s “rare talent”, Ben went home and showed the ‘Bloke’ episodes to his wife and fellow producer, Francesca Carney. She’d grown up on a farm in Hawke’s Bay and instantly fell in love with the series. 

The couple have since taken Charlie under their wing. Together, they helped him to tap into the NZOA funding successfully. Charlie has also collaborated with Ben and Frida on their teaser video animation and concept art for their next ‘STINKY PITS’ pitch. Ben and Francesca will now work alongside Charlie to produce the rest of the ‘Bloke’ series on YouTube. 

“It’s been unreal, all this attention for Bloke. It’s my passion project. I’ve worked hard on it, so it feels amazing to have been given such a huge chunk of money to do something I love,” says Charlie. 

Ben says it was fortuitous that NZOA announced funding specifically to support young creatives. “And only recently they recognised that to get a youth audience to watch New Zealand content they had to put it on platforms they are watching, namely YouTube and streamers,” he says. Charlie plans to use his funding to combine the three episodes already on YouTube and remaster them. He aims to release them as a pilot full season. He also wants to release six further six-minute episodes, and behind-the-scenes videos tracking his journey. 

“While we haven’t got the show on a big streamer yet, we can put it out on YouTube to build an audience around Charlie’s YouTube channel. That way viewers will follow and support him in future ventures,” explains Ben. “Through Charlie telling his story he will be encouraging the next generation of young New Zealand talent to back themselves and make what they want to.” 

Charlie Faulks (Animator) with Producers Francesca Carney and Ben Powdrell of the web series 'Boke of the Apocolypse' and a scruffy white dog sitting on a living room couch together.

Charlie Faulks with producers Ben Powdrell and Francesca Carney, and dog Bill Murray.

Both Ben and Francesca believe the young artist, animator and writer will be this generation’s Murray Ball. Murray is the New Zealand cartoonist renowned for his ‘Footrot Flats’ comic series. “Charlie has a unique voice that will speak to a broad audience, it’s fresh and nostalgic. His series will appeal and speak to kids growing up in the regions,” says Ben. 

As Charlie jokes about becoming the couple’s fourth child and them his “Wellington parents”, he’s grateful for that chance meeting and the connections — and success — it created. 

As a film destination and UNESCO Creative City of Film, Charlie knew that Wellington was a place where connections and collaborations happened. It was the reason he chose to study in the capital. “I’ve always loved drawing. Growing up I was obsessed with Loony Tunes and Scooby Doo, I would redraw those characters. So coming to Wellington to nurture my creativity was a no-brainer,” he says. “Wellington is such a vibrant, creative city. You can walk down the street and you see [Kiwi actor/comedian] Jemaine Clement, it’s mind-blowing!” 

Ben and Francesca first met through a mutual producer friend. Having lived in Wellington for more than 25 years, they also say the screen industry constantly intersects with the city’s wider arts scene. “If you are open to it, collaboration lies around every corner. The key is to be brave and put yourself out there.”

Watch episode one of ‘Bloke of the Apocalypse’