James Patterson, “The Chef” & Me

 

Fellow muses – and co-authors – JAMES PATTERSON & BILL CLINTON sharing a moment.

 

Hired by the Hachette Book Group in NYC to record and narrate the AudioBook version of best-selling author James Patterson‘s latest thriller, I had no idea what I’d signed-up for.

 

Or how far down the “rabbit hole” I’d have to go.

But when you’re invited to audition for a title by one of the world’s best-selling authors, and by one of the world’s leading AudioBook producers… well, you do it.

Upon receiving my MP3’d audtion of Chapter One, I was cast by Hachette’s LIsa Cahn as studio of choice – my Airlift Productions – and narrator.

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“The Chef” CD Artwork – Narrated by Micheal Ziants, Airlift Productions, New Orleans

Set in New Orleans over Mardi Gras, “The Chef” unravels the tale of Caleb Rooney, detective in the NOPD by day, and celeb food truck operator by night.

Throw into the mix: the FBI, NOPD brass, a police shooting by our hero, recipes (yeah, recipes, it’s called “The Chef”, after all), sex, an ex-wife, a new flame, Middle East extremists, Muslims, “red herrings”, NOLA  tourists, travelogue-style descriptions, Mardi Gras…. and terrorists – and you’ve got yourself quite a rabbit hole.

The planet Earth’s best-selling author JAMES PATTERSON

Co-written along with Max DiLallo, a Los Angeles-based screenwriter, this one is certainly getting some mixed reviews around the planet at the moment (did these folks all listen to/read the same book?), but it was my task to READ THE WORDS.

While, at the same time, give LIFE to the characters!

And what characters – from the sassy ex-wife Marlene to the new flame Vanessa…from the NOPD chief to arrested ne’er-do-wells… from a Middle East terrorist suspect to his bitter widow!

Witness but a small sample in this video “trailer” that I produced for the YouTube krewe here…

* “The Chef”, available now planet-wide via Hachette AudioBooks *

Taking direction from producer Lisa Cahn via the Airlift Productions phone-patch, we recorded all the narrative across November and December 2018, with finished audio edited by Tim McCarthy at A-1 Sound Studios in New York.

And what a thrill the entire process turned out to be!

After all, Lisa informed me shortly into our recording sessions that Mr. Patterson listens to all his AudioBooks so, “Micheal, you’re the voice in his head right now!”

 

 

Really?  As if!

With over 375 million books already sold to this date, and with all the characters this character has already cooked-up…. isn’t there enough traffic there already?

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Steve Scalise & Airlift Mike during a break from “Back In The Game”, Airlift Productions NOLA, October 2018

“Mike, I can’t thank you enough for the great job you did coaching me through the audio recording of my new book, “Back in the Game!” Since this was the first book I’ve ever written (and recorded), it was all new territory for me. You made the entire process go very smoothly, and I am incredibly happy with the final product.

I appreciate all you did to bring this book to life. You know you are really good when both James Carville and I are in complete agreement that you are great to work with!!” — CONGRESSMAN STEVE SCALISE

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from NOLA

Airlift Productions – we’ll leave the mics hot… and the light on for you.

From New Castle … to New Orleans, What a Trip!

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Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants as a ‘babe in the woods’ New Castle, PA. What, no headphones?
From New Castle (PA) to New Orleans (LA) … to quote the California sage Jerry Garcia, “What a long strange trip it’s been!”
 
Born in New Castle (just north of Pittsburgh) to Charlie & Phyllis, the middle child of five kids, by the time I was five, we’d already relocated all the way to Florida – where we moved two additional times in three years … before moving back north to Youngstown, Ohio.
 
So, let me see, I’m all of nine years old and I’ve already had five different mailing addresses in three different states in the union.  No, pop wasn’t running from the law, just an upwardly mobile and in-demand chemical/mechanical engineer.
My first jobs were newspaper boy, altar boy, and grocery bagging and delivery boy.  Boy, that’s a lot of ‘boys’.  And great training at a young age in dependability and responsibility for manhood, I might add.
Even as a young dude (boy) through all these very same years, the roots of the recording studio and voiceover career were planted. I took up acting in civic children’s theater, studied ventriloquism (even built my own dummy), taught myself to play the guitar (had my own band in high school) … and fell in love with radio & communications.
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Micheal Ziants High School Grad Pic 1970 Northwestern High, Beaver Falls, PA
Upon graduating high school, with dreams of heading to the military academy at West Point, I spent a year working hard as a land surveyor during the day and attending Penn State by night. When the academy dreams fell apart, I’ve got to admit – it was radio, communications and broadcasting that captured my heart.
 
Big time!
So, after carrying a 4.0 in English, Speech, Philosophy and (oh, my) Calculus at Penn State, I decided to drop out, follow my heart and launch a career in radio. Now the fun begins.
From Columbus to Youngstown, Ohio … Harrisburg, PA to Saint Louis, MONashville, TN to Philadelphia, PA … all before landing in the land of sugarcane and Pontchartrain – New Orleans!
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Airlift Proprietor Micheal Ziants as alter-ego John Saint John, in the production room at WLAC, Nashville, 1980
Yes, I’ve been hired – and fired – from some of the finest radio stations in America!  And worked for some of the country’s hallmark names and companies … the Joseph Pulitzer family-KSD Radio in St. Louis, Billboard Magazine-WLAC, Nashville, and General Cinema Corporation-WIFI, Philadelphia.
When I arrived in New Orleans at Q-93, the station was then owned by Insilco, a Fortune 500 outfit with silver mines all over planet earth! 
But I just grew tired and weary of the fragile existence that radio offered and/or threatened, along with the toll on my private and personal life.
You want to know something?  Women will only take to that packing and unpacking, up-and-down-the-radio-dial life for just so long … before they say ‘so long’.
 
Necessity being the mother of invention, I began the Airlift Productions thing – recording and producing ‘voice-overs for export’ – long before it became fashionable.  I built my first recording studio in 1984, ‘burned the ships’ (as the expression goes) and never looked back.
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The Original Airlift Productions – before digital, the internet & mp3s – in the closet of my one-bedroom apartment – 1985
Airlift Productions was my opportunity to combine all my loves – acting, music, communications, production and radio – into my own business.  Oh sure, I could still run the bus off the road, but at least from now onward … I was the one at the wheel.  
 
1984 was the age of reel-to-reel magnetic recording tape, grease pencils and splicing blocks, cassettes and Fed Ex next-day deliveries. The internet and world wide web, mp3 email attachments, and digital non-destructive edits weren’t even dreams yet in a tech head’s head!
Fast-forward now to 2019… and the kid has stayed in the picture.  I still love to paint those mental pictures, color the air with bright pastels and deep earth-toned hues … motivate with sound!
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Micheal Ziants and the new “Annie” Quvenzhane Wallis, recording for Chrysler and sharing a few laughs at Airlift Productions
And what a thrill and honor to do it all from the world’s most unique city and America’s most fascinating destination.  If you’ve been to New Orleans you know whereof I speak … and if you haven’t, well, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
 
Catch-up with us when you can at Airlift Productions Recording Studio here in New Orleans.  We’ll leave the mics hot for you!
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Airlift Productions, New Orleans

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DaleAnthonySmith“It has been my pleasure to collaborate with Mike at Airlift on a variety of projects from sound effects for museum films, to Narration for corporate and commercial work, to high end deeply layered radio spots.
He works out of his own custom designed studio, so he has been able to offer a flexibility to accommodate erratic schedules.
In every case, he has maintained the highest standards of production that equal anything produced in New York or LA. He is dedicated, tireless, dependable and truly enjoys his work to the point of making the process actually fun. I would not hesitate to recommend his services to my colleagues or anyone seeking a totally professional sound track.” ~ DALE ANTHONY SMITH,  Designer/Producer at Multi-Media Corp,  New Orleans

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Airlift Productions ~ Recording With Mood & Attitude!

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Airlift Productions Recording Studio & PROduction House, New Orleans, 2019 Panoramic Studio Pic. Check it out … “Weapons of Mass Production”

 

With all the equipment in the Airlift Productions studios – bouncing meters, glowing lights, ‘bells & whistles’ – the one thing visitors and clients seem to remark the most about is, strangely enough, the Window!

Its custom-cut, stained glass beauty captures every New Orleans sunset from it’s setting in the western wall of the studio, and gives constant feedback on current sky conditions as it reflects the tempo of each and every recording day.

Inspired by ancient Mayan illustrations and pyramid hieroglyphics, it was custom-designed to carry the colors of the Airlift Studios into it’s intricate artwork – from the passionate purple of the walls to the midnight blue carpet & charcoal grey acoustic foamed walls.

“The Gift of Life”, as it is called, symbolizes the spiritual journey of man.

At the center is the flame-like symbol of God who is Light & Life, the Creator of All.

The Triangle – symbolizing Mind, Spirit & Soul enlightened by God in its midst – is within the circle that signifies God is All in All, without beginning or end.

And surrounding the circle are the glyph signs for sky, earth’s abundance, and precious water.

And this magnificent artwork accomplishes all this spiritually without being overtly religious, to say nothing of ‘choosing up sides’ –  favoring one religion, faith,  or approach over another.

“The Gift of Life” also serves as the perfect backdrop and vibe for all the intensely creative audio projects & work being recorded and captured at the Airlift Productions Studios.

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The Airlift Productions “Engine Room” ~ a view into the studio control room, as seen from the Talent room, along with the “Gift of Life”, Myron’s Discobolus … and the Laughing Christ.

 

Catch the Fire!  At the  Airlift Productions Recording Studio  ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

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Airlift’s Micheal Ziants (Right) with actor Joe Renier, On-Camera with TLW Productions for Seacor Marine … deep in the Gulf of Mexico

“We’ve worked with Mike for almost 15 years, both as voice over and on-camera talent in more than 50 films.  Not only is he a great guy and a super talent,  but he has the coolest recording studio in the South.” ~ TIM WESTON, President TLW Productions, New Orleans, LA, USA

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V/O Marketing 101.1: An S.O.S. On S.E.O… What?!?

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Boy, just when you thought you had all the answers … they changed all the questions!
 
Watching ‘Mad Men’ re-runs on Netflix the other night, it hit me again as to how completely flipped and upside/down marketing & advertising has become from the 20th to the 21st century.
 
We’ve transitioned rather dramatically from ‘interruption’ marketing to ‘permission’ marketing.
 
Think about it, from the local disc jockey hitting a commercial and joking about the station ‘paying the light bill’ to the network newscaster ‘interrupting’ the news stories to sell you stuff … ‘interruption marketing/advertising’ was, last century, THE way to get your message across.
 
Today – in 2019 – even the 7 year old child skillfully navigates the remote control fast-forwarding the DVR box through the commercials … and then turns around and price-comparison-shops from a smart phone in the aisles at Target or Best Buy!
 
search_engine_marketing_ser‘Permission marketing’ in the 21st century ‘allows’ the buyer into your world when he is ready to buy.  It gives the buyer all the pertinent information needed UPON REQUEST via the device they have on-hand – in many cases IN their hand – to make the buying decision.
 
So, telling your compelling story on-line, making yourself available 24-7-365, and letting the potential buyer know about your satisfied customers  while on-line has indeed become the 21st century marketing challenge.
 
And no matter the century, it’s just plain human nature that people/buyers will put more trust and faith in what other people have to say about you … than anything you have to say about yourself.
 
The power of a well worded, sincere testimonial – let alone from someone already known and trusted – speaks volumes about one’s service rendered or product offered. 
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An Airlift Productions’ VO session in progress, with legendary Lillian Axe front-man Steve Blaze at the hot mic

In a virtual world where, in many cases, the entire transaction is done without human interaction, smiles, winks or handshakes, and across miles and state lines – the testimonial creates trust!

 
And this is precisely why I’ve just recently dedicated many hours to revamping the Airlift Productions website’s Testimonial Page.
 
From local New Orleans television personalities to New York producers, from iconic horror movie host Morgus the Magnificent to the Discovery Studios in Hollywood … from the mouth of James Carville at the Airlift mics to former Sirius/XM satellite talk show host Mike Church‘s opinion – all in their words!
 
1407-nighttime-pomonacrateFrom VoiceOver jobs, music recording sessions & audio books… to telephone systems & educational software – Airlift Productions & I have delivered. Time and time again.  From the last century to this one.
 

So go ahead, tap the 21st-century-brakes for just a second,  hit the pause button on the DVR box, and visit the Airlift Productions~Ziants Testimonial page here – when YOU are ready, 24-7-365 – and we’ll be there for you! 


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Airlift Productions ~ Delivering the Goods from NOLA since 1984!
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Rhiannon Boulger & Airlift Mike at the Airlift Studios NOLA 1-6-17

“Thank you Michael for being so accommodating, and making my job truly enjoyable. I’ve recorded in many professional studios all around Australia throughout the years, but I felt right at home and was really impressed with the huge Airlift Productions recording space & booth you built. Recording with you was as easy as if I were in my own studio back in Australia – and that really makes for a successful session. All your wonderful compliments didn’t hurt the vibe either! My ego appreciates your generous, kind words. Thanks again for being such a gentleman.”

~ Rhiannon Boulger, VO Artist, Melbourne, Australia

Size Counts! Or Does It? Get A Grip … On This.

Chichen Itza Pyramid

Long before the days of the white man, in fact when all of Europe was still a wilderness – to say nothing of what we today call ‘America’ –  the Maya in the Yucatan had a thriving commerce based on silver & gold … and charted the heavens with a stunning accuracy that still stands today.

From their observatories on the temple mount high atop the jungle, in a society that revered nothing if not time – they were the very first to witness the sunrise ….  and the last to admire and pray upon the sunset. 

My studies with the Maya have taught me many things, but chief among them is this thought process that I share with you here:

With talk of the recent ‘Super Blood Wolf Moon’ still fresh, travel with me on a meditation of the mind as I walk you through some ‘Spiritual Aerobics’ – a stretching exercise as it were – and yet use science, facts & logic all along the way…

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Our Moon in the night sky is roughly 240,000 miles from Earth, while our sun is 93 million miles away. The Speed of Light clocks-in at 186,000 miles/second! Really. So, it takes our sun’s rays a little over 8-and-a-half minutes to make the journey from their origin until they reach our Earth.

Now, if light travels that FAR that FAST, can you even begin to get your mind around the distance light would travel in an hour? A day?  A week?

How about a year?!?

This is what the scientist ~ in the days before Columbus, before Galileo ~  the Mayan astronomer would call a ‘Light Year’.

Now, picture yourself camping on a star-filled night under the stars’ heavenly canopy. Pick out a star. Among the billions of possibilities, for the sake of example, let’s choose Betelgeuse, which sits in the middle of the Belt of Orion.

This ‘star’ – this SUN – is 642.5 LIGHT YEARS from Earth!  So, in the same way as our sun’s rays take just over 8 minutes to make their journey, here’s the punchline — 

That ‘starlight’ touching your eye left Betelgeuse BEFORE your grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents … were BORN!

 

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Earth, the 3rd rock from the sun, is but a very small grain of sand on a rather immense & intense beach.  And it is not our final home.  Even the Carpenter from Nazareth would talk of the fact that His Father’s House had many rooms.  H-m-mm….

So, past all the science, numbers & math … ‘at the end of the day’ as the white man is often wont to say, what’s the take-away message?

It is simply this:  let’s you & I let the ego go. E-G-O … Earth Guide Only, Edging God Out, Eliminating Golden Opportunities … Forget the silly turf wars, dial-down all the drama & conflict,   and at least TRY to Increase The Peace.

Pause to consider, it’s called the ‘Universe’… break it down – ‘Uni’ {One} …. ‘Verse’ {Song} .

We all need to learn to sing the same song.

After all, in the ‘Big Picture’, from the ‘Slippery Slope, at the  ‘End of the Day’ (dare I say ‘literally’?) ….

You and I are but germs on a rock ball spinning around a ball of fire!

~ Micheal Ziants

Putting in time here on the 3rd rock, from the New Jer-USA-lem

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          To Communicate is the Beginning of Understanding.

Airlift Productions Communicates.

From Books-on-Tape to CDs in 1993? Courtesy Airlift Productions

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(L-R) Charlie Biondo, “Miss Linda” Mintz, Micheal Ziants, celebrating over 3,500 units sold, “Soft Words, Warm Nights”

While the world was still calling the genre “Books-On-Tape” in 1993, Airlift Productions self-published and successfully sold spoken word CDs to libraries across America – and to the world via the Playboy catalog.

I realize that this all sounds a tad mad, but let me tell you the story.

I first met New Orleans icon “Miss Linda”, Linda Mintz, during a session at the Airlift Studios on Iberville street in 1993 while recording radio commercials for a local client.

Our muses, along with the stars, somehow aligned after that session while Linda and I discussed our love for poetry… as we hatched the egg of an idea for an outfit we dubbed “WordMusic”.

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“Miss Linda” Mintz & Micheal Ziants (McCann), during recording sessions for “Soft Words, Warm Nights”, Airlift Productions, 1993

Linda, long known and loved by generations of New Orleanians as Romper Room’s “Miss Linda”, had been reared with a love and respect for the magic of poetry.

Yours truly, while working all over New Orleans airwaves as a commercial voice and producer, was looking to create a self-published project that had “legs”, would be “evergreen” and that we could get behind and market to the world.

Produced on Iberville Street (all on reel-to-reel tape), voiced by Linda & me, and backed by husband Albert Mintz… we called the project “SOFT WORDS, WARM NIGHTS”.

** “I Love You/A Bright New Land”… Soft Words, Warm Nights excerpt with Linda Mintz & Micheal Ziants **

Imagine the world’s most romantic poetry lovingly rendered – and cast against the lush backdrop of the sounds of nature, coupled with a meditative new age score.

Score one for the kids on Iberville Street!

** Bess, the landlord’s daughter sacrifices herself to save her lover, Mike Ziants reads the classic, “The Highwayman” from SWWN **

Together with marketing pal Charlie Biondo, we drew the attention of Bayside Distributors in California, produced cassette tapes AND CDs in 1993, were successfully reviewed by all the major trade publications, and took it to market!

** “Will You Love Me When I’m Old?” from SWWN **

After selling over 3,500 to libraries across the U.S., we attended the American Booksellers Association trade show in Chicago, where I personally pitched the project to Hugh Hefner!

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“Soft Words, Warm Nights”, featured in the Playboy catalog, 1995

Hef was back in his hometown that weekend to promote Playboy’s 40th Anniversary coffee table book and, little did he know it – but get a fast pitch from Micheal Ziants.

Playboy Magazine’s catalog then featured our “Soft Words, Warm Nights” in several editions, helping us to move over 500 units, saying that our CD created “Irresistible Ambiance”.

While I caught a lot of kidding & ribbing  from family and fellow radio pals here in NOLA over this entire escapade, it remains one of my favorite stories.

What wasn’t so pleasant?

In an attempt to get a major ongoing distributor for our work, upon sending our CDs to every single major AudioBook publisher at the time, we were not only turned down – but ripped off! 

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“Soft Words, Warm Nights” CD artwork, Airlift Productions/WordMusic 1993

As the idea – romantic spoken word, produced with music & sound effects – was copied within a year by many of them, along with known Hollywood actors that carried marquistype names.

(Sigh!)

Oh well, as the Bard once opined, “It is better to have loved and lost… than to have never loved at all.”

Besides, it still makes for great “Did-you-hear-the-one-about-the-BIG-one-that-got-away?” type stories around the bar and NOLA parties.

Furthermore, as we all know, “Never. Never. Never. Give up!”… and, “He who loves and runs away, lives to fight another day.”

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Airlift Mike, Micheal Ziants, reads James Patterson’s “The Chef” for Hachette AudioBooks, 2019

I haven’t. And.. I have!

I mean, back in the 1990s, how was I to know that here in 2019 my path would intersect with one of the world’s biggest and best-selling authors? 

Coming soon to earbuds near you, from the Hachette AudioBook Group, with a release date of February 17th, 2019… Micheal Ziants narrates and interprets James Patterson’s “THE CHEF”.

And, trust me, gang – Soft words and a warm night, this ain’t!

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“Working with Airlift Mike in NOLA was an utter pleasure. I was in town for business for a month and needed to maintain my audiobook recording schedule. Mike was accommodating and a pure professional. He mastered the punch and roll technique in 24 hours to be ready for our first session, and over the course of the month we laid down 5 books and a number of auditions. His studio sounds great. The vibe & atmosphere can’t be beat. You’d be hard pressed to find a better recording studio in the southeast – no matter what your needs. I wish I could have stayed!” ~ Amy Landon


Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans since 1984 

Airlift Productions – we’ll leave the mics hot… and the light on for you.

 

 

Woof! Airlift Productions Goes To The Dogs

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Airlift Productions NOLA’s Micheal & Ben Ziants along with The Shadeaux – his first Christmas 2006
The only problem with dogs is … that they don’t live forever!
 
And spelled either frontwards or backwards … Dog is still man’s best friend.
 
The Shadeaux, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal dogs, came to the Airlift Productions Studios and became our official mascot and ‘talent herder’ over Christmas 2006.
 
Near as we can tell, he’s twelve years old today and, truth be known, he picked us out at the SPCA that day.  Kind of like the Ziants boyz – a mutt; part German Shepherd, part Chow, part Border Collie … and all Love.
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Airlift Mike and The Shadeaux – ears back – after a long walk. Gee, this totally Zen dog doesn’t even return a bark for a bark! But he loves to give that mailman hell. 🙂
No, this is not his obituary (and even he’d appreciate the humor that the word ‘bitch’ is in that word), it’s more like a mid-life opus and testament to his otherworldly powers.
 
After all, the recording process can be somewhat intimidating to some, and capturing a stellar on-mic performance can feel a bit daunting at times – even to the pro!
And the Shadeaux has an uncanny way of throwing a ‘chill-out’ factor into the entire equation.
 
Little Quvenzhane Wallis (of ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ fame) wanted to take him home with her (no chance), and James Carville’s ‘missus’ – Mary Matalin – could hardly tear herself away to get back to work on her audio book.
 
With a woof, a lick, and an appreciative tail wag – coupled with more fur than Liz Taylor at a pre-PETA-days holiday bash – the Shadeaux  has an amazing talent for making anyone feel comfortable, relaxed and right at home.
 
And when trying to record a stunning on-mic, on-point performance … what more could you ask for?
 
Except maybe that he’d live forever.
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  Airlift Productions … where EVERY day is ‘Take Your Doggie to Work Day’…  Airlift Mike with his fave, furry four-footed friend – and uncharacteristically shy, The Shadeaux  

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“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” ~ Will Rogers
 
“I care not for a man’s religion whose dog & cat are not the better for it.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
 
“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.” ~ Andy Rooney

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Micheal Ziants & Sean O’Shea, navigating the twists & turns of AudioBook production, Airlift Productions New Orleans, June 2017

“Airlift Mike was a saint, and ridiculously patient and supportive (and helpful!!) for this audio book virgin. In another environment, without the support, and with pressure to perform “right”, I probably would have completely fallen apart. So the MVP for this getting done goes 100% to Mike and the chilled out environment he’s cultivated…personally and within his studio.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to get this audio book out to you guys!! As challenging as it all was, the end result, I think, is amazing! 

Once again, a big heartfelt thanks to Mike and the years of expertise he brought to this project to ensure I sounded my very best. If you’re ever in Nola and need the best audio dude, and the best dude dude, holler at my man Mike with www.airliftproductions.com

Thanks for the great week my friend! :)”

— SEAN O’SHEA, Los Angeles-based Dog Trainer & AudioBook Producer

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984  … and going to the dogs since 2006

“Back In The Game”, Congressman Steve Scalise & Me

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Congressman Steve Scalise records “Back In The Game” with Airlift Mike, October 2018 at Airlift Productions NOLA

I first met Congressman Steve Scalise Monday morning, October 8th, 2018 at the Airlift Productions Studios.

Hired by the Hachette AudioBook Group, based in Paris & NYC, my job was simple.

Or was it?

I would host the congressman, along with his body guards the Capitol Police, here at Airlift through the month to record and capture his personal memoir reading of “Back In The Game” for worldwide distribution.

The AudioBook recording process, even to the pro, can prove a daunting task. To a newbie, like Steve, it can prove most intimidating.

Even though as Majority Whip the congressman could and would speak on the floor of the United States House with conviction, confidence & fervor – THIS was something else altogether.

Alone. Isolated. Pensive. Painful. Hopeful.

While reflecting on a life-changing event. And one that damn near took his life.

** Steve Scalise Excerpt from “Back In The Game”, courtesy Hachette AudioBook Group **

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Airlift Productions records “Back In The Game” AudioBook, October 2018

“Back In The Game” details the congressional baseball practice shooting in June 2017 – what could have been the biggest political assassination in U.S. History – and the remarkable efforts of the police, first-responders, doctors, and surgeons who saved Steve’s life.

Not exactly light reading. 

It was harrowingly frightening, desperately challenging… and ultimately inspirational and hopeful.

Through our three weeks of recording, I hosted and made  all the Capitol Police comfortable, engineered the sessions, operated the phone-patch with our director in New York, delivered the wav files via FTP to the final producer – and bonded with the congressman.

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Steve Scalise at the “hot mic”, October 2018, Airlift Productions NOLA

Steve and I recorded for hours (over two dozen), had lunches together, shared anecdotes from our respective life-walks, laughed long and hard, and talked of God, politics, and country.

Incredibly, to this audio engineer, two of our recording sessions followed lunches he had just come from with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and another with our U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (and former two-term Georgia Governor) Sonny Perdue!

Ya know, not exactly my lunchtime cohorts down at the Subway.

Although after this rather unique month of October, I can now look upon this affable, personable & warmly sincere congressman as more than an acquaintance.

So, Steve, if you just so happen to be reading this – you’ve got more than just a constituent on Pomona…  you’ve got a friend.

And howzabout a rematch on that ping-pong game?

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MichealZiantsSteveScaliseAirliftProductionsNOLA-Oct2018
Steve Scalise & Airlift Mike during a break from “Back In The Game”, Airlift Productions NOLA, October 2018

“Mike, I can’t thank you enough for the great job you did coaching me through the audio recording of my new book, “Back in the Game!” Since this was the first book I’ve ever written (and recorded), it was all new territory for me. You made the entire process go very smoothly, and I am incredibly happy with the final product.

I appreciate all you did to bring this book to life. You know you are really good when both James Carville and I are in complete agreement that you are great to work with!!” — CONGRESSMAN STEVE SCALISE

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Airlift Productions ~ Telling America’s Greatest Stories from New Orleans … since 1984

It’s An Audio Christmas Card From Airlift Mike

From Nat King Cole’s “Chestnuts roasting…” to Bing Crosby’s “I’m dreaming…” to Karen Carpenter’s “Greeting cards have all been sent…” the Christmas holidays every year have always been about all things audio to me.

And since I long ago left the snow-covered northeast for warmer climes in New Orleans, I’ve also replaced the crunch of snow and the sound of snow shovels scraping across concrete sidewalks with holiday sounds of my own making.

Conveniently enough, my Airlift Productions Studios have long provided me the platform and vehicle for making those holiday sounds.

Funny. Sarcastic. Profound. Inspirational.

So, on this Christmas 2018, let’s queue up a few for this audio Christmas greeting from NOLA…

Archie Manning records with Airlift Productions

While I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Peyton or Eli Manning, I sure have met and worked with their pop Archie.

In the early days of the Airlift Studios down on the Crescent City’s Iberville Street, acting as writer and producer for Archie Manning’s Gold’s Gym, it was my job to work with Archie on his various different radio campaigns.

Among my fave creative efforts for Archie was this one, wherein I was Santa Claus and he was the kid on Santa’s knee at the mall telling me what he wanted for Christmas.

** Archie Manning’s Gold’s Gym ** from 1992 **

And with our Saints making a Super Bowl run here in late 2018, how much fun was that?

Another 1990s Christmas effort of mine has resurfaced here this Christmas season, as old pal Sue Bonano resurrected a couple spots of mine to air on Entercom radio stations here in 2018!

Yeah, it all sounds a bit crazy but, with a little editing, a radio ad that is now 23 years old, was brushed-off and aired all over NOLA this holiday season to lovers who weren’t even born when it first aired.

** Sue’s Jewelry “Because…” Radio Campaign, again in 2018 **

As the Christmas audio memories continue…

Hired by a Chicago-based ad agency called Right Hat in late 2015, I was tasked with lining-up the talent and recording a web-based “politically correct” Holiday greeting card for a Washington, D.C. law firm.

Wait a tick, a what?

That’s right.  A politically correct greeting card! So I tracked down a trio of very talented professors at our Loyola University to come to Airlift Productions to record a classic that would have old Ebeneezer himself doing a double take.

** Right Hat’s take on Christmas 2015, with Airlift Mike **

Whew! Let’s decompress after that one, OK?

And at the same time shift gears totally.

Shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific school shooting at Newtown, CT just before Christmas in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary, I was inspired to hit the Airlift Studios.

Taking an anonymous internet writing and adding Danny Elfman’s mystical score to my voice, I came up with an answer from the “other side” as to what happened to those beautiful young souls that fatefully painful December morning…

** Christmas Eve in Newtown  by Micheal Ziants**

Without a doubt, Jesus of Nazareth is the Reason for the Season!

But given the fissures & cracks in our 21st century society, is it any wonder why the season can be so paradoxically wonderfully troubling and problematic for so many?

Meanwhile, the prayers and reflections continue to this day…

Like I said, for this Christmas audio greeting card – Funny, Sarcastic, Profound, Inspirational.

Which pretty much sums up my feelings, my take here on my 66th Christmas here on the 3rd rock.

From yours truly and the Airlift krewe here on Pomona, here’s to a Merry Christmas!

And for 2019 – a wish for everyone across the planet to Increase the Peace.

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans…since 1984

If You Knew Pomona Like I Know Pomona…

Naples, Italy statue to the Roman Goddess Pomona

(To be sung) As the old tune goes, … “She’s Oh, Oh, Oh what a gal!”

Pomona may be just another street to neighbors & friends here just outside New Orleans, but to me it’s a lot, lot more.

After flooding at the Iberville Street Airlift Productions location TWICE through my 1989 – 2001 stay, just off Carrollton & Canal, I re-located the whole biz to suburban Metairie well outside the ‘bowl’ that is Orleans parish in March 2001.

Pomona sits on Metairie ridge, naturally above the flood plain and, ironically, not even a mile from the now-infamous 17th Street Canal which breached and gave America the historical tragedy known as “Katrina”.

Furthermore, the Bonnabel subdivision here in Metairie seems somewhat preoccupied with the Holy (or otherwise) Roman Empire.

Really.

I routinely walk my Airlift Productions mascot the Shadeaux past streets named “Nero”, “Claudius”, and “Feronia”. Go figure.

Punchline?

Rome’s mythological muse & sweetheart Pomona

Well, unbeknownst to most of my neighbors and friends here in the ‘hood, Pomona is the ancient Roman mythological goddess of fruitful abundance! 

Not that she gets that much attention here in this hectic, frantic-paced #MeToo generation, but check out her Wikipedia page here.

Living, loving, playing, and, yes, working from Pomona for what is now nearly 18 years, and having found a success beyond my wildest dreams, I’d have to say that perhaps the Romans were onto something here.

Fruitful abundance?

Airlift Productions Pomona Game Room, right next to the studio doors

Well, lemme see here, through my tour of duty on Pomona, I’ve seen in/out the studio doors… Chef John Besh, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Dr. Morgus (the Magnificent), Ronnie Lamarque, James Carville, Mary Matalin, Steve Scalise, Deuce McAllister, Quvenzhane Wallis, Alden Ehrenreich, Toby Kebbell, Morris Bart, Lee Zurik, Greg DiLeo, Rich Lenz, Norman Robinson, Rachel Wulff, Camille Whitworth, Heath Allen, Theresa Andersson, Stacy Head, John “Spud” McConnell, Edoardo Ballerini, Ed Clancy, Jamie Neumann, Scott Walker, the Krewe of Nyx, Bradley Edelman, Anne Gisleson, David Menasche, Mike Church, Nathan Ales, P.H. Fred, John R. Lee, and, well, even some folks you may have heard of.  (I know, cheeky, huh? But try Googling just a few of these names…)

And from the high ground on Pomona, I’ve produced work that encompasses most all media – from Radio spots, TV VoiceOvers, Educational Software, Radio Imaging, Animation VO, Website Explainers, Industrial Narrations & Podcasts… to Phone Messages-on-Hold, CD-ROMs, and AudioBooks.

Furthermore, my AudioBook recording efforts have now included work with the biggest AudioBook producers on Earth – Penguin, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Blackstone, Harper, Listen-Up & Random House.

Rubens’ artwork depicting Pomona displaying her, well, uh, “fruits”

So, while I indeed thank the One True Living God for the inspiration and effort to have made the move to Pomona all those years ago… let’s not leave the old gal herself out.

For all dat voodoo that you do… Thanks, Pomona!

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Airlift Productions – we’ll leave the mics hot… and the light on for you.

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984.

VoiceOver Recording & Production … with a New Orleans twist