Tag Archives: New Orleans VoiceOver Talent

Airlift Productions: A Life Lived In The Hurricane’s Eye

AirliftProductionsInTheHurricanesEyeThe National Weather Service defines the “Eye” as the region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones.

Metaphorically, the ever-changing media & technology would be the tropical cyclones/hurricanes, and  Airlift Productions & I would be the ones who have for over thirty years resided… calmly, persistent & steady, in the hurricane’s eye.

Airlift Productions New Orleans Logo Re-boot 2012 by Ethan Anderson
The Airlift Productions logo, conceived & trademarked in 1984, and re-imagined for the 21st century

In 1984, the needs of my first full-time client – WGNO-TV/Tribune Broadcasting – gave birth to the Airlift Productions Studios. That very year Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office, the compact disc was brand new, and top-rated  CBS affiliates WWL-TV WWL radio here in New Orleans were owned by Loyola University (“World Wide Loyola”) and… the Catholic Church.

From the changing complexion of the White House to digital music distribution (and piracy), TV/radio deregulation and consolidation,  and from Loyola’s WWL ownership to Gannett, Tegna & Entercom … my, how the media and technological winds have blown!

Meanwhile, through all the changes and through all the years, Airlift Productions and I have resided calmly and ever-persistent in the Hurricane’s Eye.

A recent Search Engine request for just two words “Airlift Productions” yielded the most remarkable result – in the Images section was an internet-search-generated montage of a Life lived in the Hurricane’s Eye…

AirliftProductionsYahooImageSearchScreenshotMay2015
a Google image search for ‘Airlift Productions’

There was every studio I’d ever built – from the closet at Rock Creek Apartments to Iberville to Pomona.  There was Norman Robinson, Rich Lenz, Heath Allen, the Blue Angels, Morgus, Greg DiLeo, Sister Thecla,  Quvenzhane Wallis, even James Carville’s feet on my ping pong table.

From radio commercials, TV voice-overs, music projects & audio books, to educational software, industrial training & safety videos,  from cathode ray tubes to flat screens and broadcast to podcast – the Airlift Studios & I have shifted and tacked into the winds of change … while remaining calm & steady in the Hurricane’s Eye.

AirliftProductionsNOLAgoogleSearchJune2015
A recent Google Search for “VoiceOver Production Blogs” – of over 7-Million possibilities, Airlift Productions resides on page One.

 

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence & Determination alone are omnipotent.” ~ Coolidge/Ziants

 

                    *** Micheal Ziants AUDIO BOOK Demo ***

 

AirliftProductionsMichealZiantsAndTheShadowOnTheJob
Airlift Productions proprietor Micheal Ziants putting in another day at the office ~ along with studio mascot ‘The Shadeaux’

And the winds continue to blow! My grandfather John was born before the radio, my father Charlie was born before the television, and I was born before the internet & digital.

What’s next?

Well, whatever it is, you can rest assured that Airlift Productions and I will be there … in the Hurricane’s Eye.

********************************************************************

L-R.JoeRenierMichealZiantsSeacorMarineShoot
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, NOLA 

****************************************************************

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

… we’ll leave the light on for you.

Now Playing At A Flat Screen Near You ~ In Atlanta

aviva-by-kameel

Now playing – yes, still in 2018, that’s what ‘buyouts’ are all about – on flat screens all across Atlanta, from hotels to motels and on the web, is this classic piece all about a Mediterranean Grill in downtown Atlanta called “Aviva by Kameel”.

The creative crew at Destination Network in Florida came up with the copy, approach & video editing expertise.  The call came into the Airlift Productions Studios for V/O help on the announce tracks.

Yours truly – as the VoiceOver guy – is merely a supporting player, helping to tell the story.  The star is without question – proprietor, chief cook and bottle washer – Kameel Srouji!

A native of Nazareth, Israel, who emigrated to the states and Atlanta in 1979, this guy just lights up the screen with his intensity, passion, and drive.  And, oh, those eyes.

Kameel serving it up…with style & passion

My job?  Simply to tie it all together – level, even-handed, even understated – while the orchestrated symphony of the kitchen workers and the snappy music track propel it forward.

Fun! Bouncy! Electric!  And motivating hungry Atlanta natives & tourists to sample Aviva’s eclectic fare… and keep coming back for more.

MichealZiantsVoiceOverTalentAirliftProductions
Broadcast Veteran – and Actor – Micheal Ziants, plying his trade at the Airlift Studios

Airlift Productions  & Airlift Mike ~ sort of like my buddy Kameel ~   ‘boxing-up’ VoiceOvers-to-Go since 1984!

Tour the Studios right now from your laptop or cell phone here ~ AIRLIFT PRODUCTIONS, or just call on the 504 at 833-8450.

 

**********************************************************************

“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 knowledgable 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

*********************************************************************

Airlift Productions ~ Where the warmth of analogue lives… and the lightning speed of digital delivers. 

Is A Good Audio Book Just Really Good Old-Time Radio?

radioAs a couple of my Airlift Productions associates (pals, cronies) were listening to excerpts from “Murder in Coweta County”, Ed Clancy chimed-in and said, with his eyes closed, that the whole presentation sounded to him like the early days of radio.

Think about it,”The Shadow”, “The Lone Ranger”, “Dragnet”, “Amos & Andy”…  In radio’s infancy, and way before TV was born, radio delivered early 20th century drama, suspense, intrigue, laughs, and even coined the term “soap opera”.

I was flattered.  Deeply.

Because as a student of radio, and not just the crazed on-air personality music days of the ’70s and ’80s, but of that good old-time radio … that was exactly what I was going for as I laid down the tracks to “Murder in Coweta County”.

AirliftProductionsMurderInCowetaCountyBookJacketAnd what is so fascinating about this particular piece of work is that, in retrospect, it would not be too far a stretch to say that this audio book version has proved to be a bridge between the centuries. Because here the old-time radio approach is married to the poker-hot, ripped-from-the-headlines issues of today.

Really.

In 2017, as America continues to wrestle with racial strife and the over-reaching of police forces from Charlotte to Baltimore and from Baton Rouge to Tulsa, “Murder in Coweta County” casts quite the spotlight on race, murder, the police and the scales of justice.

** Micheal Ziants reads from Chapter 7 **

Little did I realize when approached by the Pelican Publishing gang to record the audio book version of “Murder in Coweta County” how challenging, demanding, and damned thrilling this project would become.

And how similar to old-time radio it would turn out to be.

** Airlift Mike reads from Chapter 3 **

MichealZiantsNewOrleansVoiceOverTalentArtistRendering

Gee, when they did the made-for-TV version in the 1980s, Johnny Cash had to play only ONE guy, while Andy Griffith had to play only ONE guy. Here, I was tasked to play them ALL!

And play it I did, calling on all my life’s travels & travails, all my metaphysical studies, and 40+ years of behind-the-mic experience to give that old-time radio feel to a book written in the 1970s about an actual crime that happened in the 1940s – here in 2017!

 

             ** Excerpt from Chapter 21 of Murder in Coweta County **

 

Micheal Ziants in the Airlift Productions ‘torpedo room’, during a break from giving LIFE to “Murder in Coweta County” for Pelican Publishing, NOLA

 

 

 

** Excerpt from Chapter 4 of Murder in Coweta County **

Truth be told, radio commercials are a kick, TV VoiceOvers are rewarding, but audio books are where it’s at.  To get completely lost in a zen-like way telling a compelling story while playing and giving voice to every single character is truly a remarkable experience.

PelicanPubMICCStrokeApril2015

Directly tied to the ease of digital distribution, the Audio Book industry has exploded here in 2017!  Retail sales have  increased from a mere $480 million in 1997 to a projected Two Billion for this year!  As  intriguing narration coupled to a great story and delivered just like good old-time radio … delivers … again.

And everything old is new again.

I’ll meet you between the headphones one cold & rainy night.

Airlift Productions ~ telling America’s Great Stories from New Orleans since 1984

*************************************************************

ZakGeorgeRecordsAudioBookAtAirliftProductionsNOLA
Zak George recording with Micheal Z at Airlift Productions NOLA, October 2016

“Micheal Ziants is an absolute professional with a thorough understanding of his craft. I could not be more pleased and happy with my experience at Airlift Productions, and I’m confident that anyone who has the pleasure to work with Micheal will feel the same! Recording an entire audio book can be a stressful process, but his experience, calm professionalism and determination to get it right really made all of the difference! Thank you for a truly wonderful experience, Airlift Productions!” ~ ZAK GEORGE, America’s preeminent Dog Trainer, Animal Planet/YouTube star, & Author of the best-selling “Dog Training rEvolution”

*****************************************************************

 

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 2017 excitement in the air – along with Jefferson Parish’s Family Gras happening this weekend – 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 this past week, 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 Jay 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

****************************************************************

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

“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, currently the KING of daytime TV at KOTV, Tulsa 

**************************************************************

Airlift Mike Rings The Dinner Bell For N’awlins

Anna Mae's Restaurant Opening In Metairie
Anna Mae’s Restaurant Opening In Metairie at the same location as Legends Encore Night club

So, in a city internationally known for it’s incredible cuisine, exactly how do you put the spin on yet another entree into an already crowded field?

How do you make that new entree sizzle, bite, and cut through the clutter?

Keep it real.  Keep it honest.  

** Airlift Mike “Straight Talk” :30 for Anna Mae’s Restaurant **

NewOrleansVoiceOverTalentMichealZiantsAirliftProductions
Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants putting in another day at the office

And just last night at the “Soft Opening” party, as I finished my last-bite-as-good-as-the-first of grilled chicken fettuccine alfredo, I had to admit that I sure knew what I was talking about.

Tasked to write, voice and produce a radio campaign to introduce a brand new restaurant is a pretty daunting challenge but I guess you could say that I really sank my teeth into it.

** Airlift Mike’s “Be Anna-mazed” radio :30 **

And adding a piece of real bluesy Clapton-ish feel-good music, a few sound effects, and a clever turn of a phrase branding element sure does add some pepper to the pitch.

Oh, and we can’t leave out the desserts! While most folks talk of calorie-laden, decadent-sounding desserts using the phrase “to die for”, at Anna Mae’s we take a different tactic…

Along with an intro at the top that pokes a bit of fun at the phone-obsessed texting crowd that just can’t seem to tear themselves away from their last message or entry.

** Airlift Mike talks “Just Desserts” for Anna Mae’s **

In fact, the only thing I enjoyed more than coming up with the ideas, writing and producing these radio spots … was actually EATING there at Anna Mae’s.

10392394_682067388582476_1703186430460785207_n

So, brunch, lunch or dinner, if you can’t catch me around the Airlift Productions Studios … you’ll know where to find me.

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

Airlift Mike Goes Industrial. Again.

shell oil logoIt sure has been an interesting week around the Airlift Productions Studios here in NOLA. And a day in the life of a VoiceOver artist is certainly never boring.

There is not an ocean on the planet that Seacor Marine vessels do not sail.   And multinational Shell Oil is among the largest and most powerful oil companies in the world.

This past week I had the honor of working for both of them.

Yes, the Airlift Studios were buzzing as commercial work & audio book projects gave way to industrial fare.  You know, it occurred to me a long time ago that teaching someone how not to die while on the job was not only necessary… but rather noble.

AirliftNOLAsMichealZiantsOnCameraForSeacorMarine
Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants working On Camera for Seacor Marine

Working alongside Tim Weston of TLW Productions here in NOLA, Wednesday afternoon I narrated Safety Videos for the SEACOR MARINE crews in an effort to get the boys out to sea from Port Fourchon safely.

Meanwhile, Friday morning, contacted and contracted by new Airlift client Launch Media in Baton Rouge, I recorded a corporate outreach effort on behalf of SHELL OIL. 

In fact, this job struck like lightning! The call and email came into Airlift after hours Thursday night, and was signed-off on, recorded, tagged & bagged by 9:30 Friday morning.

Launch Media Creative Director Wes Kennison made the request, then orchestrated and directed via the Airlift phone-patch, and wave files were relayed back to Baton Rouge for post-production.

When it comes to corporate, industrial V/O jobs, the person behind the mic has to take control… cross the T-s and dot the I-s, with letter-perfect diction. With Authority. With Conviction.  With Sincerity.

*** Airlift Mike, setting the pace for Port Fourchon, LA ***

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

Like I said, a day in the life of a working VoiceOver artist is never boring. Especially if you get to occasionally play around in front of the camera too!  From New Orleans …. 150 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico.

 

And teaching someone how not to die while on the job is not only necessary … but noble.

           To Communicate is the Beginning of Understanding.

                            Airlift Productions Communicates.

Audio Books Are Murder! But Only When Done Correctly.

"Murder In Coweta County", the true crime drama that shocked Georgia - and America - from 1948, via Margaret Anne Barnes...and Pelican Publishing
“Murder In Coweta County”, the true 1948 crime drama that shocked America – Now in Audio from Airlift Productions , Micheal Ziants  & Pelican Publishing

It really is true: To the VoiceOver guy, if the thirty second radio spot is the 100 yard dash, then the audio book recording process would have to be the marathon.

What a marathon – and what an audio book – “Murder In Coweta County”  turned out to be.  An autopsy on American Ideals and Dreams that mixes prejudice, racism, big money, pride, murder and southern justice all cast against the backdrop of 1948 Georgia –  I lost count after 75 all the different characters I would have to portray by book’s end.

The courtroom scenes, which dominate the back half of the book, involve questioning from agenda-filled lawyers and testimony from terrified and frightened witnesses. For they have been called to help fill in all the details and build the state’s case against the villainous, feared, arrogant John Wallace.  

AirliftProductionsRecordsAudioBookVersionOfMurderInCowetaCounty
Actual courtroom photograph from 1948 of a smiling, confident – and headed to the electric chair (“Old Sparky”) – John Wallace

Bringing LIFE to printed words on paper, painting mental pictures, taking the listener to front-stage center in the ‘theater of the mind’ are the challenges posed to the audio book narrator & actor.

In this excerpt from Chapter 21 of “Murder In Coweta County”, it was my task to, in effect, be the Judge, Jury & Executioner, as the saying goes … as I create antagonist, protagonist and everyone in between – from the prosecutor to the service station attendant cleaning up blood-stained car mats.  Even the aged father of the poor, murdered victim.

~ Airlift Mike reads from Chapter 21 of “Murder In Coweta County”, courtesy of the krewe at Pelican Publishing ~

If a printed book can be referred to as a “page turner”, urging the reader ever-onward, it’s Pelican Publishing’s and my hope that this audio book will be a tough one to turn off.

MurderInCowetaCountyJohnWalGiven the fact that the outcome, which is a long foregone conclusion having been based on a true crime drama (“he gets the chair”), the magic has to be in the story telling. Or as Billy Shakespeare used to say, “The play’s the thing”.

And play it I did. My heart, soul, blood, sweat & tears … metaphysical studies & philosophical leanings, coupled with my decades of on-mic experiences are all boiled down into the tracks of every chapter of this audio book. Truly.

So, as 2015 continues to grind on – with tensions from Ferguson to Baltimore – give a listen to this fascinating autopsy on America’s roots and ideals. 

 Available from the krewe across the river at Pelican Publishing, it will serve as a permanent reminder around the house and to all of America,  that racism must be a thing of the past, that might does not make right … and that “crime does not pay”!

The late author Margaret Anne Barnes together with Johnny Cash, who portrayed her MICC hero Lamar Potts in the made-for-TV movie version
The late author Margaret Anne Barnes together with Johnny Cash, who portrayed her MICC hero Lamar Potts in the made-for-TV movie version

Airlift Productions  ~ Telling America’s Great Stories since 1984