Taylor Swift “Shakes Off” Airlift Productions

Taylor Swift, tagged to headline Jefferson Parish's Family Gras 2008
Taylor Swift, tagged to headline Jefferson Parish’s Family Gras 2008

** With Mardi Gras 2020 excitement in the air and New Orleans in frenzy mode – I’m re-posting this blog, originally published in June of 2015 **

Long before her recent shaking-up of the “Apple Cart’s” new music streaming service, Country/Pop-Tart Taylor Swift was headed to play New Orleans – and yours truly, Airlift Mike, was tagged to help promote and give voice to the show.

Little did any of us realize when then-19 year old Taylor was selected to appear at Family Gras 2008 – just down Veterans Boulevard from the Airlift Productions Studios – that she was destined  to explode and become one of the world’s hottest selling musical artists!

Family Gras was brand new – and so was Taylor Swift’s career.

Contracted by NOLA public relations ace Greg Buisson and the Jefferson Parish Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, I was tasked with voicing and producing the :60 audio track (video edited by Joseph Schneider) which was then to play all over New Orleans television to promote the affair.

** An uncharacteristically UP-Tempo Micheal Ziants, generating excitement for Taylor Swift’s Family Gras 2008 Appearance **

2008FamilyGrasLineupSo, with but one big hit in her hip pocket (“Our Song”), Taylor got in the bus with mom & dad, Andrea & Scott, and drove down to NOLA from Nashville for the show on that ill-fated late January.

She was slated to appear along with Blake Shelton, Kansas, Billy Ray Cyrus, The Bangles and a host of class N’awlins acts  – all in between Mardi Gras parades on the neutral ground of Veterans Boulevard here in Metairie for Family Gras 2008.

But Mother Nature had other ideas.

As Fate and the rain gods would have it, the skies over NOLA opened up that fate-filled Friday afternoon and it rained.  And it rained.  And it rained!

Poor Taylor’s only appearance that afternoon was on the 6:00 News/Blues.  Under an umbrella.  In a pouring rainstorm.  As she tendered her regrets to a dismayed New Orleans crowd about her canceled show.

swift14f-1-webReally.  Ask her about this one sometime, should you get a chance.

And little did any of us realize that day that this little PA native, Nashville transplant, Taylor Alison Swift’s career was about to explode – into the stratosphere!

Oh wait, of course. Her mama did.

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from New Orleans since 1984

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L-R, Heath Allen, Theresa Andersson, Micheal Ziants, Rich Lenz – during a break from the original HEALING HOUSE sessions, Airlift Productions 2004

“Great recording studios share something in common with great concert venues. They both have a…what is it? An aura, a vibe, a karma, an ambiance? Whatever you call it, it’s as real as any speaker on the wall or slider on a console. You can’t see it, but, you can absolutely FEEL it. 

Airlift Productions has IT – thanks to the man behind the board (and in your ear). Micheal Ziants has a knack for gently pulling your best work out of you – and then improving upon it in the final mix. The finished product always leaves you thrilled, satisfied and amazed that you really had it in you! The best part- he gives you all the credit and you only realize later what great hands your material was in. 

Do yourself a favor- give Airlift a try. You’ll love the results and every moment you spent producing them.”

~ RICH LENZ , former WDSU-TV Sports Director/Anchor 

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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 2020… 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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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 2020 – 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 AudioBook 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 (astonishingly, in sync with Congressman Steve Scalise’s opinion) to former Sirius/XM satellite talk show host Mike Church‘s opinion – all in their own 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

Han Solo Records VoiceOver At Airlift Productions

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The New Han Solo recorded “Beautiful Creatures” movie V-O at Airlift Productions NOLA

Little did  Alden Ehrenreich or I realize when we first met that he was destined to become Han Solo!

Hired to record some last-minute Hollywood South VoiceOver for Alden’s latest movie “Beautiful Creatures”, I certainly didn’t know what to expect that June morning of 2012.

In this teen-goth, supernatural, romantic thriller with a southern twist, Alden had been cast as the star-crossed lead lover Ethan Wate. And as the fates would have it, there were a few key monologue voice over tracks left un-recorded when they got to post-production.

Enter Airlift Mike and Airlift Productions.

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Alden Ehrenreich at the Big Star Wars Han Solo Announcement Party

When I answered the door that morning there was Alden, boyishly handsome, with a cheery “Good Morning”…. and a pint bottle of Jamaican Red Stripe lager in his hand.

When I questioned this rather novel approach to a recording session, he said simply that “This is for after we’re done!”

So, after it we went.  Together with veteran movie sound pro Jeffrey Haupt, screen play writer & director Richard LaGravenese, a dialect coach from London, and their entourage, we laid down VoiceOver tracks for this moody suspense thriller.

Witness a taste of Alden’s acting chops here; don’t you love the faux southern accent? I mean, he was born and raised in Los Angeles, with roots further back (like yours truly) in Austria & Hungary —

And more recently, Alden stole the show – and even upstaged George Clooney himself –  in the 2016 Hollywood-Golden-Era homage Coen Brothers flick “Hail, Caesar!” as celluloid cowboy hero Hobie Doyle. Check him out here….

Fast-forward just a tick, then, and imagine our collective surprise when out of the thousands who auditioned for the part, the Lucas-Disney machine that IS the STAR WARS franchise cast this dude for the Star Wars prequel – as the NEW HAN SOLO!

You go, Alden!

So, let me see, if Alden is 29 today, back when we met and recorded together he was all of 22. So, back to that day ….

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Alden (dead center) holding his own at the “Hail, Caesar” Party – with Josh, George, Jonah, and Channing …. hey, there goes the neighborhood, huh?

After the session, he popped the top on his Jamaican Red Stripe and began to share it with me! We went slug-for-slug like Catholics at a communion rail, laughed, and talked of his past, present and future.

But little did either of us realize that day that the future would include his casting in the biggest movie juggernaut of the 21st century!

And today, that empty bottle of Jamaican Red Stripe is still sitting up on the Airlift commissary shelves, beside other noteworthy bottles of wine, scotch & Wild Turkey emptied after sessions past to celebrate & commemorate memorable Airlift Studio recording sessions.

Happy and thrilled for you the Airlift Productions krewe is, Alden!

Thanks again for the laughs, brotherhood… and Jamaican lager.

Oh, and despite some of the sketchy reviews of your latest intergalactic celluloid effort (some say “meh”), may the Force Be With You, my brother!

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SidNoelRideauMorgusRecordsVoiceOverForNewOrleansAtAirliftProductions
E.R.I.C. the talking skull records VoiceOver at Airlift Productions

“Dr. Ziants:

My dear colleague, it was a true delight to visit and work with you in your digital laboratory. I somewhat envy your remarkable equipment, which far exceeds anything we can afford here in the old city ice house. Your audio production facilities are second to none, and I thank you again for the excellent recordings you produced for the Momus A. Morgus Institute.” — Momus

** A tested-by-time Testimonial from Dr. Morgus (aka – Sid Noel Rideau) direct from the old city ice house to the Airlift digital lab via email.  Check the good doctor out anytime at www.morgus.com ***

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Airlift Mike On-Camera performing with Sid in “Morgus Presents” 1988, re-broadcast on Fox-8

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

VoiceOver Demos, Airlift Mike … And Teenagers?

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Mary Rose Neumeyer “delivers the goods” at the Airlift Productions microphones

A well-crafted VoiceOver Demo should do for one’s voice what a model’s portfolio does for one’s body.

Show it off! Showcase it! Highlight it!

Just as a photographer uses lighting, sets, makeup, and wardrobe to capture its subject, the voice demo audio producer uses compression, reverberation, equalization, the just-right music, sound effects and editing to properly capture/record his subject.

From compassion and pathos … to angst-filled attitude. Sly and seductive … to bold & brassy! Demure … to confident.

A captivating VoiceOver Demo captures every trick the actor has in his/her bag, and is edited in such a way as to showcase versatility and cast-ability.

Case in point?

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Mary Rose Neumeyer having way-y too much fun at the Airlift microphones

On a hot, sultry N’awlins  afternoon in the cool confines of the Airlift Productions Studios, I hosted Vicky & Jeff’s pride & joy Mary Rose Neumeyer.

Having trained for years under the tutelage of noted NOLA acting coach Debby Gaudet, Mary Rose indeed brought some formidable skills to the Airlift microphones.

Part commercial, part promo, and all class, Mary Rose’s V-O Demo captures a style and sensibility that belies her then but 14 years on the planet.

Yet, boy, can she still be a kid! And deliver FOR the kids.

Give a listen to this teen sensation’s skill set, here …

       *** Mary Rose Neumeyer VoiceOver Demo ***

Look out, Nickelodeon; the Disney gang is on notice, as well.

Make room for this kid … at the top!

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Airlift Mike with VoiceOver Teen Sensation Mary Rose Neumeyer at Airlift Productions

And if your project, TV campaign, radio spot, or promo could use a fresh from-the-mouth-of-babes, stand-out-from-the-crowd approach – Mary Rose & I are as close as the cellphone in your pocket.

You’ll find us at #1-504.833.8450 or 24/7 on the web at AIRLIFTPRODUCTIONS.COM.

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“Many filmmakers portray teenagers as immoral and ignorant, with pursuits that are pretty base… But I haven’t found that to be the case. I listen to kids. I respect them… Some of them are as bright as any of the adults I’ve met.” ~ the late film director John Hughes

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Micheal Ziants is a great voice talent who is generous with his time and energy. I have worked in TV for years, but needed the guidance of a professional to create my radio reel and found it with Ziants. He made me feel comfortable in studio and encouraged creativity, coaching me to a reel I hope will bring many job opportunities. “ ~ California-bound, Former WWL/WDSU Anchor/Reporter, Mom, Realtor – RACHEL WULFF

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

You May Say I’m A Dreamer …

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John Lennon at the piano creating a vision with “Imagine”

Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

~ John Lennon, “Imagine”

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As my fave old metaphysical space cowboy running partner Henry David (Thoreau) used to say, “Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air.  They are where they should be.  Now… put the foundations under them”.   And …

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us … are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.”

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Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants – at age 20 –  on the first real radio job, Youngstown-Niles, Ohio, 1972.

Airlift Mike – channeling and realizing the dreams of John Lennon & Henry David Thoreau… since 1972.

So, what do you do with YOUR spare time?

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Norman Robinson & Airlift Mike, tracking VoiceOver session, October 2019 at Airlift Productions New Orleans

“Michael is without a doubt one of the most versatile audio and production experts in the industry. ” — NORMAN ROBINSON, Harvard Nieman fellow; Honorary Doctorate of Human Letters-Our Lady of Holy Cross College; former CBS-TV White House correspondent;  senior news anchor WDSU-TV, NOLA

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

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

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 Churchill reminded us all, “Never. Never. Never. Give up!”… and from the vernacular, “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, NYC/Paris

I haven’t. (Given up.)

And.. I have! (Lived for another day.)

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? 

“Now showing” on earbuds near you, from the Hachette AudioBook Group, and today available on all worldwide platforms… 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.

Christmas 2019 Reflections & What Most Don’t Get About Airlift Mike

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With Christmastime in New Orleans, together with all its trappings and sentiment in everyone’s windows and minds, allow me to tap the brakes for a second, reflect, and unpack a few things.

As a lifelong learner and student of philosophy, world religions, and mystical thought, it would be safe to say that I’ve lived  what could best be termed an unconventional and totally unorthodox lifestyle.

While most of my peers have chased money and jobs, I learned years ago to instead pursue passion and purpose. And then simply allow the dollars and opportunities to fall in line. 

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One illustrative case in point is this one I share with you here: In my now 35 years of owning and operating Airlift Productions here in New Orleans, I have NEVER commuted to work!

Ever.

As the great souls Emerson & Thoreau taught me, “Build a better mousetrap – and the world will beat a path to your door.”

They have.

Imagine, if you can, the colorful characters, historical heroes, fascinating personalities and captivating individuals who’ve knocked at the Airlift Studio doors to come “work” with me.

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Airlift Productions, New Orleans’ Foremost VO Recording Studio

I’ve been fortunate and blessed to have recorded and worked hours on end closely together with (deep breath) and in no particular order….

Archie Manning, Dr. John, Chef John Besh, Quvenzhane Wallis, Deuce McAllister,  Charles Guggenheim, Necar Zadegan, Mayor Marc Morial, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Stacy Head, Nathan J. Robinson, David Menasche, Carrie Nye, Bo Walker, Buddy Stall, John Lee, Luno Bordelon, Jerry Christopher, Steve Blaze, Ronnie Lamarque, Anders Osborne, Theresa Andersson, Rachel Wulff, Scott Walker,  Lee Zurik, Zak George, Congressman Steve Scalise, James Carville, Mary Matalin,  Alden Ehrenreich, Toby Kebbell, The Krewe of Nyx, John “Spud” McConnell, Morris Bart, P.H. Fred, Mike Weldon, Reverend Avery C. Alexander, Brad Edelman, Rich Lenz, Norman Robinson, Heath Allen, Anne Gisleson, Sean O’Shea, Lewis Johnson, Greg DiLeo, Nathan Ales, Donald Surtain, the Right Lane Bandits, Bishop Paul Morton, Senator Jon Johnson, Congressman Bill Jefferson, Edoardo Ballerini, Oliver Thomas, Morgus the Magnificent, and… well, a host of multi-talented voice-over artists, stand-up comics & radio rebels.

Not up to speed on some of these folks? Let the Googling begin.

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Airlift Productions Studio’s custom-designed Mayan “Gift of Life” Stained Glass Window

The Punchline? Through all New Orleans’ intense weather – storms, hurricanes, blisteringly brutal summers, icy winters – each and everyone of these folks came to me, to Airlift Productions, to “the better mousetrap”.

Mind you, this is no brag, no empty boasting, but simply an observation as to a much richer and fulfilling way to live one’s life.

And what a life.

Marching to the beat of one’s own Walkman – instead of following the crowd – has always led to experiences few will ever get to taste.

Having discovered my first tape recorder at age 12, and after many years of stage-acting and then a rewarding radio career, how cool is this?

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Micheal Ziants and the new “Annie” Quvenzhane Wallis, recording for Chrysler and sharing a few laughs at Airlift Productions

I now get to live out the rest of my life here in NOLA from what was once only a dream in my head, from my Airlift Productions… and I now get to spend the rest of my days dancing with the very same muse that first brought me to the party!

During this Christmastime 2019, my holiday hope and prayer is that you, the reader of these words, if you haven’t yet… one day… find … yours.

Merry Christmas & Feliz Navidad from way down yonder in New Orleans – and Airlift Mike. 

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Rachel Wulff records her VoiceOver Demo at Airlift Productions NOLA

“Micheal Ziants is a great voice talent who is generous with his time and energy. I have worked in TV for years, but needed the guidance of a professional to create my radio reel and found it with Ziants. He made me feel comfortable in studio and encouraged creativity, coaching me to a reel I hope will bring many job opportunities. “ — RACHEL WULFF, Former WWL & WDSU-TV Anchor/Reporter

Rachel Wulff’s compelling VoiceOver Demo produced by Airlift Mike

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

Caught Between Dr. Morgus & A “Hard Rock” Place For H’Ween 2019

Hard Rock Hotel collapse, Saturday morning, Oct. 12th, 2019 – Canal Street, New Orleans

While I began talks with NOLA’s iconic Dr. Morgus for his big show early this year, little prepared either of us for the events of early Saturday morning, Oct. 12th, 2019.

You see, New Orleans became the headline in America’s national news that day as the Hard Rock Hotel construction site on our Canal Street unexpectedly and catastrophically collapsed!

The problem? The city of New Orleans was now in a heightened state of emergency – 36 hours from our big showtime at NOLA’s majestic Orpheum Theater, which sits right around the corner but steps from the Hard Rock site.

In true, “The show must go on” style, Uncle Sid & I, together with Orpheum GM Ivy Mouledoux and production ace Lewis D’Aubin, put our heads together, kept our collective cool, and delivered anyway.

Sid Noel in full costume as “MORGUS THE MAGNIFICENT”

To the uninitiated, Dr. Morgus (The Magnificent) is New Orleans’ beloved, legendary & iconic late night horror movie host and alter-ego to my dear pal Sidney Noel. So, to celebrate 60 years of Morgus (the show debuted in 1959), we’d planned our Big Halloween tribute, “An Evening with Sid Noel: The Recollections of a Mad Scientist”.

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Morgus Show Orpheum Packed-House, Oct. 13th, 2019 – the night of the Full Moon
Audio of Airlift Mike’s Intro to Morgus Show Highlight Reel

Social media, Radio & TV blurbs sure helped to get the word out, but a mere 36 hours from the Hard Rock fiasco, the curtain went up at the Orpheum Theater at precisely 7:00 PM Sunday night, Oct. 13th to a “souled-out”, packed “Friends of Science” crowd.

Acting as emcee, I warmed-up the audience, we rolled into a half-hour Morgus Show highlight montage film, and then I introduced “The Master”…. as Sid walked on-stage to a thunderous, standing overture of affection.

(L-R) Airlift’s Micheal Ziants, E.R.I.C., & Sid Noel, Orpheum Theater, Oct. 13th, 2019

With warm, reflective tones and a comedic style belying his 89 years – and without the aid of a teleprompter or notes – Sid nimbly and effortlessly entertained the crowd as he reminisced with story after story about his lifelong relationship with “The Higher Order’s” Doctor Morgus.

As our old pal Dr. JOHN would often sing & say, it was, “Such a Night”!

By the time it was all over, hearts were warmed, smiles were embraced, memories were kindled – and the show raised well over $43,000.00 for Alzheimer’s Louisiana!

(Very personal note) Uncle Sid, I can’t thank you enough for this opportunity to serve – as both emcee & highlight reel voiceover, for this most wonderful priceless memory, and for the inspiration your tireless efforts have given my aging body.

May the Good Lord indeed Bless & Keep You!

As I write these words, the fate of downtown New Orleans and the Hard Rock Hotel site is still very much up in the air… but rest assured that the legacy of Sid Noel’s Morgus The Magnificent has never been on more rock-solid ground.

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Toby Ricketts Instagram-Twitter ‘Selfie” taken in the Airlift Productions booth

“Working on the road can be a pain for voice artists – I was so glad to find Airlift studios on my travels, just outside NOLA’s CBD! What a beautiful, cozy, and quiet space to work in. Michael was an absolute pleasure to work with, being 100% professional and 100% nice guy! If I’m ever in the Big Easy again, I’ll be sure to stop in and see Mike at Airlift Productions.” — Toby Ricketts, Award-Winning, World-Class, New Zealand-based Voice Talent

Airlift Productions Answers Chicken Versus Egg Conundrum

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Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Around the Airlift Productions Studios,  I still get into this one with my video production pals – when it comes down to audio versus video, which of the two is more powerful and packs the bigger punch?!?

I mean, what is all televison except radio… with pictures?  Which came first? And where are the more powerful emotional cues?  

You know, the ones that capture attention, motivate, inspire, scare … and drive someone to action?

Pause to consider, the very first sense that develops as the human develops within the mother’s womb is …. wait for it –  the sense of HEARING!  The growing infant HEARS the mother’s heartbeat and the rush of amniotic fluid, almost like ocean waves,  surrounding it’s ears.

The eyes are nowhere in the picture yet.

paragon-city-center-12Now, picture yourself in a movie theater. You are terrified by the motion picture – from b/w ‘Psycho’ in the ’60s to the latest flick about some camp counselor gone crazy chasing teens through the woods with an ax – and you can very simply close your eyes.

But you cannot close your ears!

The shrieks of terror, the ragged breathing, the sound effects, the dramatic music pulsing and pounding.  Even when all sounds disappear and come to a complete … heart-pounding … stop!

Interestingly, the Creator gave us eyelids… but He didn’t give us EAR-lids!

Now, talk to a hospice caregiver, and they’ll quickly tell you from experience that in the majority of cases the final sense to leave us at death – is the sense of hearing.

More to the point, in the case of television advertising, when an ad comes on, many are off to the bathroom or into the kitchen.  In this case, all the expensive video editing software and fancy visual zips and zaps are superfluous! They are not even there in the experience of the intended viewer.

The AUDIO portion of the ad, however, is still there – OUT LOUD for all to witness!

And since time immemorial, the story-telling tradition, as one generation passed legend and myth and bedtime stories down to the next, the entire ‘presentation’ was aural – powerful, memorable and impact-full.

Sorry, video aces, but audio trumps video. It will always be AUDIO that drives the emotional train.

Airlift Productions, driving that emotional train from NEW Orleans …. since 1984.

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harlon miller“Airlift is THE place to go for a top quality demo. With Mike behind the board you are in very capable hands. His vast knowledge and command of all things audio blends with his laid-back fun environment to bring out the best in any voice.  Airlift Productions has the experience and all the tools necessary to make a voice-over reel that is on par with anything you would find in New York or LA!”

– – – HARLON MILLER, Voice-Over Actor

** Harlon’s Airlift-Mike-produced VoiceOver Demo **

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

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from New Orleans… since 1984  

VoiceOver Recording & Production … with a New Orleans twist