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Garret Harkawik: Writer / Director

Get to know a Buffalonian

Garret Harkawik: Writer/Director

Harkawik is the creator and director of Contempt of Life, a five-part sci-fi comedy web series filmed in Buffalo. The series follows the travails of Bix Baisley, a lawyer specializing in Suicide Law who must convince a panel that his client is worthy of ending his life. Marked by its’ sharp writing, clever commentary and a killer soundtrack, Contempt of Life was released last week and can be viewed in its’ entirety online. (

Where did the inspiration for a sci fi legal comedy web series come from? Is this the first (to your knowledge) hybrid of these very dissimilar genres?

I imagine it is! I don’t actually remember where I first came up with the idea, but the first draft was written in 2007. ‘Contempt’ was shot as a 35 minute short film. I had told the story I wanted to tell, but 35 minutes really is not the ideal length for a short (specifically for programming in film festivals). So we decided to cut it up into five episodes and put it online.

Why did you decide to produce the series in Buffalo? What were some of the challenges/advantages to casting and filming locally?

There were nothing but advantages to shooting in Buffalo. Everyone was incredibly supportive, and finding talent was never an issue. Our lead (Sean McCormack) lives in Brooklyn, but is originally from Buffalo so he was very excited to go back for the shoot. The fact that my parents had a house here was a big help too. They were kind enough to let me house a crew of 20 people in it (something they will never do again). And Tim Clark at the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission went out of his way to help us, we were all blown away by the work he did.

Beyond the obvious satire, were you trying to insert any underlying social commentary on euthanasia? Do you have any strong beliefs on the issue?

I do have strong beliefs about euthanasia, but that really wasn’t my motivation in making ‘Contempt.’ I think if anything, you could argue that the series kind if makes the case against it. Ultimately, I’m just using it as a springboard to explore the characters and the world that exists in the series.

How far into the future is the series set? It seems in the “Contempt of Life” universe, personal robots are the only real technological advancement. Come on, wheres the logic in that?

Ha, yeah it’s kind of ambiguous. If I could go back and do it again, I’d probably set it in an ‘alternate present day’ or something like that. Mostly I was just looking for a way to include robots, and excuse the obvious lack accuracy in portraying the legal system.

Now that the series has wrapped, what’s next? Are you working on new projects or can we expect to see a continuation of the “Contempt of Life” storyline?

I see ‘Contempt’ as a self-contained story, so probably this is all you’ll hear from those characters. I’m actually in the process of completing two documentaries - one about an amateur MMA fighter and karate school owner and the other about the May 21st doomsday believers. Lauren and I are producing a feature stop-motion animated film directed by Evan Curtis, and we both have feature scripts in the works. So we’ve got lots to do!

BONUS: Buffalo native Michael Bennet once famously quipped in his Broadway musical “A Chorus Line” that suicide in Buffalo was redundant. Is dedicated Suicide Law something we need here? Are things that bad?

Of course not! Buffalo is such a wonderful place to live. It gets such a bad rap from people who don’t live here, but it’s really a great place, especially for the arts.

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