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Summary:

Sometimes people ask when online video is going to get its Lost — a creative, well-produced, buzzworthy series that offers enough intrigue to keep audiences engaged. I’ve heard some people answer that question with “Never.” But that was before Ark premiered on Hulu.

ark-renee

The hypothetical I’ve heard posed frequently over the last year or two is this: When is online video going to get its Lost — a creative, well-produced, buzzworthy series that offers enough intrigue to keep audiences engaged? I’ve heard some people answer that question with “Never,” saying that web series budgets and talents aren’t up to the challenge. But that was before Ark premiered on Hulu last Friday.

Developed and financed by the now-defunct 60 Frames, directed by Trey Stokes and created and written by Robbie Thompson, Ark is a sci-fi thriller that doesn’t give its secrets away easily.

The first episode is largely dialogue-free, opening with Connie (Xena the Warrior Princess‘s Renee O’Connor) finding herself in an forest in space, and subsequent episodes push closer and closer to the audience understanding who Connie is and what she’s doing there.

Ark pulls off a high-quality project, including overall top-of-the-line visual effects (minus some awkward green-screening in episode 1), on a extremely limited budget: $50,000, which is about a fifth of what was spent on the Stage 9/Crackle sci-fi series Trenches. (Your sci-fi trivia of the day: Ark was shot partially on a standing set that devoted Firefly fans might recognize from the episode “Bushwhacked.”)

There have been sci-fi series with great production values. There have been sci-fi series with great writing. But Ark is the rare combination of the two.

When I say that Ark has great writing, what I mean is that the drawn-out reveal of the show’s central mystery is so compelling that it kept me enthralled for nine episodes. Of course, because Ark‘s main draw is that mystery, I’m going to advise that you don’t read the below unless you mind spoilers.

Seriously, spoilers below.

Are you ready?

Okay, spoilers start…

Right…

NOW.

HAH. Gotcha. I lied. There are no spoilers here. Why? Because the first season of Ark concludes with no firm answers, but instead a teasing cliffhanger on par with “the hatch is open.” I suppose that’s a spoiler, the fact that there are no answers to the show’s major mysteries, and to write it here might dissuade some of you from checking it out. But Stokes, via phone, does promise that they do know the rest of the story, and they hope to continue it.

Stokes put the likelihood of there being a new season of Ark at 50 percent. “Everyone wants to do one, and we owe people an ending. It’s just a matter of funding and how it does [on Hulu],” he said.

Executive producer Gabe Sachs, on the other hand, puts the odds at 85 percent, though according to him, “That’s to do with confidence — we’re going to do whatever it takes to sell the story, and would love to do a second season.” Some of that confidence comes from the fact that as of today, he and partner Jeff Judah control the rights to Ark, which means that they’re free to pursue other opportunities for the series.

That may include transferring the series to television as opposed to remaining a web series, though both options have their drawbacks according to Sachs. “If we did it for TV, we’d hopefully partner with someone who has the same vision for [the show], and there wouldn’t be as many budget constraints. But with the web, we’d have total control.”

Ark is currently geo-blocked on Hulu, though Stokes says that they plan to release the episodes for international audiences on YouTube at some point down the line (there’s no specific time frame for that plan). According to Stokes, the show’s performance on Hulu “is doing very well so far — Hulu is very interested in it, asking us what else we’d like to do and what other projects we have in mind.”

Whether Ark becomes another successful web-to-television transfer or a web series powerhouse is thus yet to be determined. But as much as I feel that the web video world needs to support great content like this, as a viewer I have to admit that I’m having a hard time caring where the next episodes come from. Because, ultimately, I just really want to know how the story ends.

Related GigaOm Pro Content (subscription required): Should You Super-Syndicate Your Web Series?

  1. I got hooked on the first episode. Although the episodes are short…really short…they’re pretty interesting and leave you with nice cliffhangers. The end is sooo cliffhanger-y. I want more!!

    I really want more of “Ark” and hopefully it’ll get picked up as a full show or at least with longer episodes.

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  2. I kinda stumbled on while watching reruns of BSG and watched all 9 webisodes, pretty solid, I really liked it. Renee is a great main character and leaps and bounds from what she did on Xena, the male leads acting leaves something to be desired, just your standard male eye candy. But the mysterious voice sure sounded alot like Willem Dafoe??? All in all its still better than Santuary or Warehouse 13 so here’s hoping for more.

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  3. i watched the whole series on Hulu in one sitting and like everyone else I’ve seen comments from I am dieing to see more and find out the whole story. I immediately spent twice as much time googling, as I spent to watch the series, to find out more info. The effects are amazing for what I read was the cost. They would be impressive in full budget movies. The only down side that I see is that it will drive you nuts wondering if you ever learn the rest, mainly cause it’s just that good.

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  4. I don’t know what thire talking about. hulu only has 4 min clips not the full episodes.

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    1. Those are the episodes – they’re just that short.

      I’m with everyone else. I just watched all these in one sitting and I loved it. Bring on season 2!

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  5. What I don’t understand is how the Sci-Fi channel can fund such idiotic movies like “Mega-Shark vs. Super-Gator” or “Gargoyles” and “Revenge of the Gargoyles”…yet when it has the opportunity to pick up a real quality show like ARK, it remains annoyingly silent.

    This show is an awesome story and has great delivery from both the cast and the overall production. I really hope for a season 2 or even a movie of ARK.

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  6. Please can someone tell me where I can find these episodes if I dont live in America? Am desperate to watch them.

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  7. I need more ARK!!!!!!!

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  8. Really? I don’t see what the fuss is about. The characters a cardboard cutouts. Their actions do not make sense. The astronaut from the 60’s acts like a male model from the 00’s. Letting a woman explore alone while he sits safely in his chair? Seriously? The ‘cliff hangers’ play out like cliche’s of the week. I can’t believe I wasted an hour slogging through it. I kept thinking, “well it has to get better”, it never did. Won’t be wasting time on Season 2 online or with a TV, whichever they dump more episodes on. On a good note, it does make The Guild seem even more awesome in comparison. Heck, it makes Sharktopus seem even more awesome. Sometimes something is turned into a web-series not because it’s edgy and cool, sometimes it’s turned into a web series because it was presented to a studio and they correctly said “Wow, this sucks.”

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