TelevisionShe is no stranger to the eight hundred thousand viewers of “Uncle Martin”. Director Liz Tillman travels the show as a sounding board for Martin Helen and gets to know her colleague better. “He’s a very loyal grandfather and can play pool fantastically.”
You rarely see them on the front, but they sure are there. For weeks Liz Tillman has been traveling on the heels of Martin Helen in his quest to find distant relatives. She offers a comfortable shoulder when possible, and asks the right questions when necessary. Tillman has worked behind the camera for years, but now she’s stepping in front of the lens for the first time. “The project is very much about Martin, so it seemed logical that someone would also ask him questions to share experiences and express feelings,” says Liz. “I’ve been working as a director at Woestijnvis for years, but it was Martin’s idea to film me too. Very awkward. It took me a long time to get used to my voice and now that I’ve edited sequences, I don’t always find it easy to see myself doing it. I can forget sometimes Still cameras are in the car, but I notice I’m still being too critical of myself. I’m adjusting myself as little as possible in the episode (laughs).”
In the past, Liz has worked with Woestijnvis on The Classroom, Top Doctors and The School of Lukaku, but she started with Man bijt hond. The program through which Martin Heylen made it big called random houses in a straight line across Flanders in its own section. “Of course I looked up to him at the time, but it wasn’t because he wasn’t friendly,” says Liz. “In Woestijnvis’ canteen I could hold a conversation with them. I think this is Martin’s great strength as an interlocutor. He himself is of humble origin and does not put himself above anyone. He does not pretend to care and exudes tremendous confidence. That is why he manages to squeeze a story out of everyone.”
Liz and Martin have been classmates for years, but in the past year they have gotten to know each other better. You don’t take a cross-state road trip with everyone. “We spent a lot of time together in the car,” laughs Liz. “But of course I got to know him better. I saw how devoted a grandfather he is, for example. He would check in on his only granddaughter regularly and keep his eyes peeled to give presents. But I also knew that Martin plays pool well and that he always needs a good cappuccino in the morning to function properly. Not always evident in the United States.”
Is this the beginning of a career in front of the lens? “That’s definitely not my ambition,” the director laughs. “Although my kids love to see me every now and then. I didn’t tell them in advance and the first time they saw me they immediately turned back. But for the rest, fame isn’t so bad. Living in Brussels helps a lot against that (laughs).”
Uncle Martin, ONE, 8:40 p.m
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