New Orleans TV News Drops Anchor(s) at Airlift Productions

L-R.MichealZiantsNormanRobinsonHeathAllenRichLenzWDSU-AirliftProductionsNOLA
(L-R) Airlift’s Micheal Ziants, Norman Robinson, Heath Allen, Rich Lenz at the WDSU-TV Studios for the CMN Telethon

Norman Robinson. Lee Zurik. Camille Whitworth. Rich Lenz. Heath Allen. Rachel Wulff.

Round up the usual suspects.

I have –  to record various voice-over projects here in New Orleans at Airlift Productions.

I first met and recorded Norman Robinson in 1991. He was fresh back in NOLA from the White House CBS-TV Network news beat, and was the newly-ordained anchor man at our WDSU.

Little did we then realize, or even think about future days, but the fact is, 28 years later, we’re still at it!

NormanRobinsonRecordsVoiceOverAirliftProductionsNOLA
Anchor man NORMAN ROBINSON brushing-up his VoiceOver skills at Airlift Productions NOLA

Our most recent project? Recording and compiling every electronic message for every streetcar and bus – even the ferries – in the city of New Orleans.

“Senior citizens ride the bus for only 40 cents”… “Please look around you for any personal items you may have left behind before exiting the vehicle/next stop, Canal Street.”

NORTA – the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority – tagged Norman and me to record well over 1,500 wav files for use in their system citywide.

** Norman narrates NORTA’s ‘Go Mobile’ App Tutorial **

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

Rich Lenz now calls  Tulsa, OK home, a gone pecan from NOLA for over ten years now (gee, Thanks, Katrina), but he served for 16 years as sports director/anchor at WDSU.

Richie and I’ve recorded countless tunes together, including epic anthems to herald the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon fund-raising year-after-year to benefit and support our Children’s Hospital’s life saving efforts for our kids.

** the 1st, of many, Telethon Tunes for Children’s Hospital **

 

Rachel Wulff records her VoiceOver Demo at Airlift Productions NOLA

After meeting WWL/WDSU anchor gal Rachel Wulff around the aisles of our local Lowe’s Home Improvement store, I helped Rachel improve her post-anchor life and UP her game by producing a VoiceOver demo for her.

Very nice.

** Rachel’s VO Demo, with her daughter’s cutesy intro **

Fox-8/WVUE’s solid anchor dude – and award-winning investigative reporter – Lee Zurik and I work together on projects for video ace Paul Atkinson.

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Airlift Mike, Lee Zurik, Paul Atkinson – “Glory Days” sessions

The latest project? VoiceOver for “Glory Days”, an homage to the passions and victories of Newman High School’s football program.

As it turns out, Lee was on the same team at Newman with a local boy-made-good you may have heard of – the NFL’s Peyton Manning.

** Lee Zurik narrates “Glory Days” with Airlift Mike **

Man, that must’ve been some wild locker room, huh?

(BTW,  Lee, do you wanna send that sassy Kim Holden over for a recording session sometime?)

L-R. Micheal Ziants, Heath Allen, Rich Lenz, Brian Landry, making music at Airlift Productions NOLA

The Airlift Productions studio doors are always open to Heath Allen, veteran reporter for decades at WDSU.  Heath carved-out his reputation in the early days all over Baton Rouge TV.

His compassionate, and knowledgeable in-the-field reporting is always incisive and spot-on. And he picks quite a guitar, at that.

2019 continues to see local NOLA news veteran Camille Whitworth drop by from time to time for various VO commercial and industrial projects.

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Camille Whitworth sets the VO mood at Airlift Productions NOLA

Camille dedicated years to  the anchor chair at WDSU, and today fills her days public speaking, doing on-camera work for our East Jefferson Hospital, and recording various VoiceOver projects for clients in and around NOLA.

Dependable, personable, and experienced, Camille is always fun to have around the Airlift Studios.

There is simply no reason or need for news anchors to walk away from their skills & finely-honed talents when they walk away from the nightly news anchor desk.

Norman, Rich, Heath, Rachel, Lee & Camille are all exceptionally fine and experienced talents with, as the expression goes, ‘ a lot of good miles left on their tires’.

It has also been said, and rightly so, that journalism, as well as the nightly news, is ‘History – the first draft’.

I am so gratified – and humbled – that these remarkable ladies and gentlemen have all chosen to work with me and Airlift Productions to write new chapters.

And, as Paul Harvey used to intone, tell ‘the rest of the story’.

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JamesCarvilleRecordsAtAirliftProductionsNOLA
Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants shoulder-to-shoulder with JAMES CARVILLE at the Airlift Studios

“I’ve been in studios from the Bayou to the Beltway and I can say after recording my last two audio books with Mike that there is no better place than Airlift Productions. The quality of the production, the studio, and frankly the comfort make it the only place I want to record now or in the future”— JAMES CARVILLE, Political commentator, Tulane professor & Campaign Strategist behind the most dramatic political victories of our generation

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Airlift Productions – where the warmth of analogue lives. And the lightning speed of digital delivers.

 

 

Saint John & Saint Louis Dance With The Devil

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55-KSD Radio “Getting the Axe” Party in St. Louis 1979 … Ed Scarborough front row left, standing it’s John Saint John on left along with legendary St. Louis radio news dude Bob Hamilton of KMOX fame

It’s long been said that the Devil dances in empty pockets. You’ll also hear that the Devil is in the details. And in the summer of 1979, as John Saint John, I was dancing a very detailed jig with the Pulitzer Family along the banks of the Mississippi in Saint Louis, Missouri.

This whole blog post was triggered by a rather innocent enough email to the Airlift Productions Studios from a Lance Hildebrand (traffic reporter/VO guy), looking for a studio to work from while visiting New Orleans. The subject line was “We’re both KSD Alums”.  Really?

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Saint John Congratulations letter from the office of the PA Attorney General, Harrisburg, PA 1978

Hired by the Pulitzer Family in the summer of 1978, I’d packed up my entire life, hopes & dreams and moved over 800 miles from Harrisburg, PA to take on the afternoon drive shift at 55-KSD radio in St. Louis.  Excitement was hardly the word!

That summer the Pulitzers held and owned pop/adult 55-KSD Radio,  NBC-affiliate KSD Television, AND the property that first put them on the map – The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, the most widely read paper in town. Long before there was a radio or a television set, Joseph Pulitzer had made his name in print.  The “Prize” was to come years later.

Little did I realize when I first took the job that this stunning combination of power, strength and reach would serve to ultimately lead to my untimely dismissal.

** KTVI-2/St. Louis Don Marsh Feature on John Saint John, 1979 **

Let’s face it, in 1979, before the birth of the internet, the web & a digitally-connected America – one company could, in effect, monopolize what people would read in their newspaper, listen to on their radio, and watch on their television! I mean, what else was there?

Apparently, by 1979, the FCC had come to the same conclusion.

The Ronald Reagan years of deregulation and consolidation were yet to come, and the Federal Communications Commission, the government’s watch dog, had been wagging it’s paw at the Pulitzer clan for quite some time.  And the time had come.

KSD Radio's Name Game Promotion, as it appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
KSD Radio’s Name Game Promotion, as it appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Music DJs Ron Morgan, Ed Scarborough, and yours truly were all shown the door as Combined Communications out of San Diego purchased KSD Radio from the Pulitzers,  changed the format to News/Talk and decided to duke it out with KMOX.

Ironically, my afternoon news dude, the amazingly & wickedly talented Bob Hamilton, was retained through the transition, and later went on to legendary status at longtime CBS kingpin KMOX.  Let’s hear it  for the on-air longevity of an outstanding newsman’s career.

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Micheal Ziants wedding to Cookie, along with mom & dad, Creve Coeur, suburban St. Louis, 1979

Yes, despite my #1 ratings with women 25-49 in afternoon drive at 55-KSD – precisely what Lee Fowler, Ed Newsome and the Pulitzers had hired me to do – newly married and with a child on the way, along with the rest of the on-air music staff, I was summarily let go/fired in the late summer of 1979.  A pawn in quite the elaborate and corporate chess game.

But as my pop used to say “Illegitimus non carborundum est” (Latin for ‘don’t let the bastard grind you down’).  I picked myself up, dusted myself off … and headed to Nashville. But that’s the story for another blog another time.

Indeed, those late summer nights after Cardinals games,  I dreamed of having quite the career in Saint Louis, maybe after radio parlaying my on-air work into writing for the Post-Dispatch one day, but that story was never to happen.

Dancing with the Devil? He’s in the details? You betcha’! And I guess I should have seen it coming.  When radio got into bed with big business, you knew it wasn’t going to end pretty. 

And when you get into bed with the Devil … you better be prepared to get it on.

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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 CBD! What a beautiful, cozy, and quiet space to work in. Micheal 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, New Zealand-based, award-winning, world-class VoiceOver Artist

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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

 

The Mystic Krewe of Nyx Meets Airlift Mike – And Podcasting.

Scott Walker & Sula Kim at the WDSU Anchor Desk

Scott Walker Consulting was founded in 2018 by Emmy and Murrow Award-Winning News Anchor Scott Walker.

After his top-rated nine year run at New Orleans’ WDSU-TV, Scott walked away from the nightly anchor chair this past summer to try something different – teaching social media skills to today’s youth and acting as public relations consultant to various local businesses.

His email first came into the Airlift Productions Studios and to my attention  November 2018 as he was looking for a little help.

L-R. Julie T. Couret, Captain Julie Lea, Yavonka George “Vee”, making themselves at home on the Airlift Productions couch

As it turns out, one of Scott’s first consulting clients was Julie Lea‘s Mystic Krewe of Nyx, and the ladies were looking to spread their wings – and purses – into internet PODCASTING!

For the uninitiated, in eight short years, the Mystic Krewe of Nyx has grown into Mardi Gras’ BIGGEST parade  – this all-female krewe features over 3,348 women from 48 states in America and around the world!

And this past November, founder Julie Lea was looking for a way to reach out to all the krewe’s members 21st century style with podcasts.

These podcasts could then be accessible 24-7-365 and from anywhere via iTunes and the krewe’s website, keeping all its members abreast of the latest news, as well as providing business and support tips for the krewe’s very successful – and yet very busy – lady riders.

Enter Airlift Mike and Airlift Productions.

Scott Walker selfie, along with Julie Couret podcasting with Airlift Mike

So, Julie Lea and her team, Julie T. Couret and Yavonka George (affectionately known as “Vee”) first appeared at the Airlift Studios last November and, to date, we’ve recorded a total of seventeen 30 minute podcasts.

Think Hoda & Kathie Lee meet “The View” – N’awlins style!

Free-wheeling, off-the-cuff, stream of consciousness, FUN… and the ladies call it “The Purse Chronicles”.

You see, that’s Nyx’s big calling card, as well as its most prized Mardi Gras throw – the purse!

The Krewe of NYX rolls along St. Charles Avenue during Mardi Gras 2019

In Greek mythology, NYX was the goddess of the night, with prophetic powers, older and more powerful than even Zeus himself, and the perfect iconic symbol for this  independent thinking and stunning group of sassy, successful ladies.

Sample just a taste of the FUN with this excerpt from a podcast recorded at the Airlift Studios January 2019, all about the Krewe of Nyx’s love and passion for Mardi Gras….

** Mystic Krewe of Nyx ** Podcast 17 excerpt – Mardi Gras **

Funny, isn’t it, how through the magic of digital 1s & 0s, America’s taste has so easily transitioned from broadcast – to podcast!

As we’ve all gotten a tad spoiled, wanting our entertainment and information on OUR time, OUR schedule, tailored to OUR wants and needs.

Just as the movie world & Blockbuster gave way to Netflix streaming, and the Photo-Mat kiosk gave way to the camera that is the  iPhone in your pocket… Podcasting is here to stay.

Mystic Krewe of Nyx selfie from the Airlift Productions Booth (L-R) Julie T. Couret, “Vee” Yavonka George, Captain Julie Lea

And, for that matter, so is the Mystic Krewe of Nyx!

Scott and the ladies have booked more studio time for the end of this month.

So… “Stay tuned”.

 

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“My experience with Airlift Productions was top notch from the start. My company is based in Los Angeles and I had a client that needed to do a last minute VO session in New Orleans. Micheal was incredibly knowledgeable and accommodating, not to mention a blast to work with! Our session turned out beautifully.” – LIZZ RANTZE, Executive Producer, Rantze + Raves Productions, Los Angeles, CA

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from NOLA since 1984.

 

Things I’ve Learned About Life From Deepak Chopra

BFFs Wayne Dyer & Deepak Chopra, and a program that changed my life, “Beyond Miracles”

I first “met” Deepak Chopra through the writings, teachings, and lectures of Wayne Dyer.

As fellow mystics & metaphysicians, these two were BFFs (best friends forever) until Wayne’s untimely passing  three and a half years ago in Maui.

Together, through my now decades of study, these two have helped to unravel many of the mysteries of life – as well as death – for me.

But chief among them is the thought process that is the subject of this blog.

As astonishing as it seems upon first inspection… it is now a scientifically proven fact that there is not a single atom in the human body today that was there seven years ago!

That is YOUR body and mine.

While at first blush this sounds absolutely mad, pause to consider but a few facts from our everyday lives…

Every time you clip your fingernails, or get your hair cut, or exfoliate in the bathroom daily… where was that fingernail, or hair follicle, or skin cell last week or last month, to say nothing of last year?!?

That’s right. It was latent, born, and growing inside of you.

Just as the spring flowers in the garden return every year, or the apple that ‘magically’ appears on the tree, as humans, we are constantly reinventing ourselves from the inside out every day, 24-7-365 from every single thing that we eat, drink, and breathe.

As they say in New Orleans, ‘for true’!

As further proof of this scientific fact, the drug testing world now routinely clips hair from a suspect to determine marijuana use.

For the hair follicle will show conclusive proof of its use – and where was that hair months ago, but being fed by and grown from the inhalation of marijuana smoke.

Good buddies (and ‘Buddhas’?) L-R. Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra

Furthermore, as Deepak so eloquently instructed me, especially here in the West, we mistakenly equate the human brain with the MIND, when they are, indeed, separate things!

While the brain is roughly three and a a half pounds of grey matter, driven by chemicals and electricity at the top of the spine… the mind exists in and, in fact, drives every cell of the human body.

And this ‘mind’ is constantly eavesdropping on every thought and emotion entertained by the brain.

Metaphorically, our bodies would then be the hi-tech, latest, state of the art airplane, while the ‘mind’ would act 24-7 as the air traffic controller!

So, we all need to control and be ever vigilant regarding the thoughts we allow ourselves from moment to moment.

Too much?

Well, the rishis, yogis, and spiritual masters who populate the ashrams of the far East would beg to differ.

Pause to consider, what the Carpenter from Galilee was really trying to get through to his 1st century posse on that ill-fated last supper in the upper room was that when He drank the wine – it would literally become His blood. And when He ate the bread, likewise, it would become His flesh!

We must all either view food as our medicine… or we will have to view medicine (Big Pharma) as our food.

New stomach, new skeletal structure, new organs, new skin, new heart, new brain.

Every seven years.

In fact, the very words you are reading right now are being written by the new 2019 version of Micheal Ziants’ brain!

What a marvelous revelation and epiphany this is for an otherwise clueless 21st century man – driving through the Wendy’s pickup window and scarfing down Tombstone frozen pizzas from the Rouse’s.

To the point?

Perhaps it indeed is true! We are what we eat… literally!

So, let’s all give more thought to EVERY thing that we eat, drink, and, yes, breathe on a daily basis.

For if you – the reader of these words – is not ultimately and totally responsible for every morsel of food and every drink that passes your lips, as well as every thought that you carry in your mind, I’d like to respectfully ask you… who is?

(Come on, guys, I can’t write only about VoiceOver and recording all the time. Especially when physical shape and excellent health certainly contribute to great on-mic performance, right?…mgz)

~ Micheal Ziants – Airlift Mike, NEW Orleans, LA, USA

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Airlift Productions – Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

Mike McCann asks “What’s in a Name?”

AirliftProductions_L-R_SteveJohnson.MichealZiants-aka-MikeMcCann.JohnWalton.Q-93.WQUE-NewOrleans.TP-1983
The Legendary Walton & Johnson flanking that imported Yankee Mike McCann, Times-Picayune TV Focus, June 1983

It’s kind of funny after all these years and all this time, but I’m still asked about the ‘Mike McCann’ thing.

After all, most disc jockeys (as we were called back in the day) or air personalities on the radio used a stage name or alias for on-air purposes. Perhaps this gave us a more dramatic & imaginative persona, but it also assured us some form of anonymity and privacy. Some form.
 
A Pennsylvania native with roots further back in Austria & Hungary, and with brothers & uncles who’ve actually mined coal for a living, I’ve long been proud of the family name ‘Ziants’, but never used it on the radio.
The Ziants Boyz (L-R) Tommy (coal miner), Micheal (radio/recording dude), John (Ohio coal mine boss), Steve (newspaper writer/sports editor) ... on vacation, Holden Beach, 1994
The Ziants Boyz (L-R) Tommy (coal miner), Micheal (radio/recording dude), John (Ohio coal mine boss), Steve (newspaper writer/sports editor) … on vacation, Holden Beach, 1994
 
In fact, through 12 years on-air, all through my tours of duty in Harrisburg (WKBO), Saint Louis (KSD), Nashville (WLAC), and Philadelphia (WIFI) … I was known to the masses as John Saint John!
 
And it really worked.  I could play on and riff on that name all day long … ‘Philly’s one radio saint – that ain’t’, or (in St. Louis) ‘preaching the gospel according to St. John from the banks of the Mississippi’, and … well, you get the idea.
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Micheal Ziants ON-AIR at WKBO Radio, Harrisburg, PA as John Saint John rocked the state capital for years, 1973-1978
Without a doubt, the radio days/daze in Harrisburg, PA are among my favorite memories through all these years. “And don’t forget to smell the flowers along the way, ’cause we’re only here for a short while.”
 ** Micheal as John St. John,  On the Air @ WKBO Radio, Harrisburg, PA **
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Pre-MP3/Downloads – in the days of 45 rpm records – a WKBO Radio weekly music survey, charting record sales … with John Saint John

In fact, some of my best pals & brothers-in-arms from along the banks of the Susquehanna now belong to the ages and pages of broadcast history.

Big names all – Charlie Adams, “Big Jim” Roberts,  Marv “The Goose” Goslin, Fred “Honzie” Honsberger, Jeff Kauffman, Gary “The Pit” Magill … much love & respect, my brothers, and prayers to ‘the other side’. I cherish the time we spent ‘in the trenches’ together.

Your names – and broadcast contributions – are now the stuff of Legend.

** Micheal as John St. John, WLAC, Nashville, 1980 **

But you know, names, people and places will always change … and upon my arrival in New Orleans in 1983, so did the  “John Saint John” thing. 
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a full-page ad in Sunday’s Times-Picayune promoting WQUE’s Mike McCann

Q-93 (owned at the time by Insilco, an international silver company, really) employed a mid-day jock (who still today does production for Entercom’s WWL) by the on-air name of STEVE St. John … a jock that I would have to follow in afternoon drive!  Uh-oh.

WQUE management loved what I had been doing on-air in Philadelphia, and flew me down to hire me in June of 1983. But the name had to go!
Oh well, (sigh) what’s that old Billy Shakespeare line about, “A rose by any other name…”?
 
So, ‘Mike McCann’ was born.  And in one fell swoop, Q-93 hired me for afternoon drive … and these two crazed characters out of Beaumont, Texas – Walton & Johnson for morning drive … all in that one fateful week!

** Mike McCann On the Air @ Q-93/WQUE-FM, along with Walton & Johnson, May 1984 **

 
Now, at that point in time, John & Steve had only been together for 5 months as a team, having met for a breakfast and formed their alliance just a half year before – in Beaumont.
 I had been a top-rated and tested major market air personality for years, and was looking to do mornings at Q, but management had other ideas.  And that is the subject for yet another blog…  another time.

What’s in a name? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

 Or is it … ON it?
MichealZiants-aka-MikeMcCann-TV-Focus-TP_1984
 
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L-R.HeathAllen, TheresaAnderssonMichealZiantsRichLenzAirliftProductionsNOLA
L-R, Heath Allen, Theresa Andersson, Micheal Ziants, Rich Lenz – during a break from the original HEALING HOUSE sessions, Airlift Productions

“For years, I have worked with Micheal Ziants and Airlift Productions recording songs for Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Miracle Network.  Mike’s attention to detail is legendary, but his commitment to the kids and the challenges they face goes far beyond that.  He gets it.   Professionally, he’s as good as it gets.  Everyone SOUNDS better after a session with Mike.  And no matter what the audio project, you FEEL better after a session with Airlift.  That’s “Z” truth! — HEATH ALLEN, WDSU-TV Reporter, and Veteran Guitar Picker

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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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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 ~ 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!

MichealZiantsBabyPic1952NewCastlePA
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.
MIchealZiantsHighSchoolGradPic1970
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!
MichealZiantsAkaJohnStJohnWLACNashville1980
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.

VoiceOver Recording & Production … with a New Orleans twist