While some children have dreams of being an astronaut or a rock star when they grow up, Garret Harkawik always had something a little less unusual in mind. His dream job since childhood? To be a documentary filmmaker.After falling in love with documentaries such as “American Movie,” a film about a Midwestern man following his dream in creating a low budget horror movie, Mr. Harkawik, now 28, began working as a filmmaker in 2009. Since, he has created three short films: “No Return,” “We Will Forget,” and “Dinner with Packer.” Each film features something raw and unique as the unscripted stories unfold.
“You never know what you’re getting with documentary films and that’s what I love about them,” the Amagansett part-timer said during a recent telephone interview. “Regular films are written beforehand, you know exactly what to expect and that’s boring.”
Along with the process of discovery being extremely enjoyable, the filmmaker, who also lives in Vermont, admits that he prefers documentary films because of the simplicity in creating them. Docs, he said, are relatively easy and cheaper to make.
“Regular films are a lot more expensive and harder to put together,” he said. “You need a lot more money and time to produce those kinds of films.”
“Dinner with Packer,” Mr. Harkawik’s most recent film, has created quite a stir. The film features Long Island native Greg Packer, a man who has claimed fame by purposely putting himself in the public eye at various events and being later quoted in the news. The documentary director first saw Mr. Packer while working on his film “We Will Forget.” That documentary was about a man named Robert Fitzpatrick who spent more than $100,000 of his life savings on New York City subway ads warning others that the world was ending.
“Robert believed the world would end at 6 a.m. on May 21, 2011,” Mr. Harkawik explained. “We went to film him in Times Square as he counted down the hours. Tons of people were there, including Greg Packer, who was standing next to Robert the whole time.”
The filmmaker didn’t know who Mr. Packer was at the time; he just assumed he was a fan of Mr. Fitzpatrick.
“It wasn’t until a year later when my wife and I were watching the iPhone release on TV and I recognized the first man in line at the Apple store in NYC,” he said. “It was Greg Packer, and that’s when I knew something was suspicious about this guy.”
After doing internet research on his next film subject, Mr. Harkawik was intrigued.
“I saw online a community of people following this man’s exploits,” he said. “So I sent him an email and asked if he would be interested in being in a documentary, and he replied ‘yes.’”
From there, Mr. Harkawik met with Mr. Packer and created the short film “Dinner with Packer.” He explained that the documentary film footage is actually from their first meeting. He added that he was a bit nervous about making the film the same day of meeting Mr. Packer but in the end everything worked out perfectly.
Now that “Dinner with Packer” is finished, Mr. Harkawik said that he’s already moved on to another project, a film about a Vermont-based musician. But the filmmaker said he is always on the hunt for his next subject.
“I’m always looking for interesting subjects and ideas,” he said. “Whenever I get an idea or hear of something, I jump on it. And I plan to continue that.”