Machinima logoYouTube network Machinima has unveiled sci-fi short Enormous, a live-action pilot to which Machinima will give a series commitment if its 10.9M YouTube fans demand it. (Watch it below.) Ceren Lee stars as a resistance fighter in a postapocalyptic future in which massive insect-like monsters have invaded Earth. Enormous is the second of three original shorts Machinima is debuting this month, each with the potential for a series greenlight, marking an essential next step as Machinima looks to evolve from YouTube video aggregator to content producer.

Machinima’s recent $18M investment from Warner Bros and yesterday’s addition of ex-Fox Networks CEO Tony Vinciquerra to its board are signs of its transition from programming other creators’ work to owning its IP. Here’s how this one came together as the company began seeking original content.

Producer Adrian Askarieh, whose feature films include 2007’s Hitman and the upcoming Agent 47, optioned Enormous from the graphic novel by Tim Daniel and Mehdi Cheggour, pitched it to Machinima, and hired writer-director BenDavid Grabinski off the strength of his 2011 sci-fi short Cost Of Living. Andrew Ovredal (Trollhunter) penned the script. “We convinced Machinima, who is the leading online portal for males 18-34, to give us the money to try this ambitious experiment,” said Askarieh. “Our budget was in the low six figures, Machinima agreed and backed us all the way.”

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Grabinski brought in his own collaborators for a tight shoot on a minimal budget, shooting on an Alexa with anamorphic lenses and a second unit shot on the Red Epic. He’ll likely return behind the camera if Enormous hits Machinima’s expectations — but exactly how Enormous could continue is still up in the air. “There are a lot of things that could be done in terms of story, characters, monsters, scale and scope of the property, ranging from a season of 10 episodes to something bigger. The fun thing is it’s pretty amorphous,” he says.

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Also ambiguous is Machinima’s barometer for success. The next step will be to wait and see how its viewers interact with these original series experiments. Unlike the crowd-sourced Amazon Studios, they’re hesitant to call the shorts pilots. “We’ll look over the course of four to eight weeks,” explained Shapiro. “Two months gives us a good indication and actual data, metrics, views, comments, engagement but also the intangible is equally if not more valuable.” Going forward, strategic investment partner WB will likely have a hand in directing Machinima’s premium content programming. The companies previously collaborated on Machinima web hit Mortal Kombat: Legacy, which first debuted on the YouTube network in 2011 and ran for two seasons with WB collaborating on distribution. Kevin Tancharoen, who directed that series, returned to helm Machinima’s next web short Gable 5, which premieres next week. Check out Enormous below: