In 1907 Leo Baekeland changed the world. Today I have the pleasure to speak to his great grandson producer Hugh Karraker. Read on as Hugh shares a story with great relevance for today, the Leo Baekeland legacy.
David: Hello Hugh, congratulations on your film All Things Bakelite. The film is about your great grandfather Leo Baekeland. Tell me why is his story important?
Hugh: He was a game changer. Our lives would be very different without LHB’s invention. I admire that he thought outside the box and took well considered risks to achieve his goals. This makes his story an important inspirational and educational asset worldwide. Also, if people know more about the history of plastic, they’re less inclined to misuse it.
David: If your great grandfather was alive today what do you think his thoughts would be about the film?
Hugh: Especially at this time in our evolution – in the age of plastic; LHB would be pleased so many people around the world are learning about plastic. The film carries people into the “heart of Bakelite” (and plastic); showing the double-edged sword of plastic; encouraging people to challenge the status quo.I think he’d admire my effort to tell both sides of the story of Bakelite and plastics up to today.
He believed it’s important to be relevant – solving problems. I trust that reasonable steps are being taken right now.
David: What inspired you to want to become a producer?
Hugh: I didn’t emerge from acting to become a producer. I simply inherited the Baekeland family archives from my mother and found a creative way to share her treasures. At some point, I’ll lock down a person or place to bequeath the collection to after I’m gone.
David: What is your ultimate goal as a producer?
Hugh: For me, the role of producing this film will continue as the events and circumstances move toward resolution of the plastics problem. My next initiative will be a live/streaming Roundtable discussion between experts on the plastics problems.
David: What are moments in your life that changed the entire trajectory of your life?
Hugh: Getting tongue cancer 14 years ago was a huge awakening. Challenging my mortality it propelled me into making ATB, providing me a positive path to follow. And to be associated with so many wonderful and talented people in cast and crew. Especially, Marc Huberman, our media manager and John Maher, our director.
David: Who is the biggest influence in your life?
Hugh: Of course, I have to say my biggest influencer is my wife of 43 years, gifted actress, Sherry Arell Karraker. In second place, is my deceased mother, granddaughter to LHB, Céline Karraker. She wanted to write the biography, but never got to it. So, you might say, I’m carrying the torch.
David: What advice do you have for people struggling to make it in entertainment?
Hugh: As written in so many books: just follow your bliss. If you’re willing to take risks, be persistent on one path, you’ll be successful. Just don’t forget the people who helped you along the way. Fully appreciate yourself, the team and the dream.
David: What are some of your guilty pleasures?
Hugh: There’s no true pleasure with guilt. I’m not feeling guilty about much these days except occasional senior moments.
But I do find the most pleasure just being in nature.
As you would expect, my family patriarch invented the first totally synthetic plastic, so we descendants must be burdened with guilt over plastic waste and toxicity. The L. H. Baekeland Project LLC founded in 2009 continues to educate and espouse Bakelite as “The Material of a Thousand Uses”. Since plastic is here to stay, let’s make the necessary adjustments and live with it.
David: If you could have one wish that would be granted what would it be?
Hugh: As I am left with the collateral damage from radiation treatment to my tongue, I wish I could swallow food and drinkagain and not have to rely on a plastic feeding tube.
For the movie, my wish is it finds its way to a lot of people – in libraries, museums, schools and colleges and universities aroundthe world. And don’t forget, historical societies, Mahjong clubs, Chemical and Plastics Associations
David: Thank you for your time. Any last words of wisdom to all the readers?
Hugh: As often expressed in his diaries, LHB had a low opinion of humanity. But I’m sure he’d like to know that some of us are willing to change the world.
Always try to turn a negative into a positive and live with the highs and lows of your choices.
Onward and Upward.
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