Tag Archives: Ben Ziants

Woof! Airlift Productions Goes To The Dogs

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

  Airlift Productions … where EVERY day is ‘Take Your Doggie to Work Day’…  Airlift Mike with his fave, furry four-footed friend – and uncharacteristically shy, The Shadeaux  


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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for the great week my friend! :)”

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


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

A ShoutOut to Sister Thecla in the Spirit World From Airlift Productions

Sister Thecla celebrating her 75th year as a nun in the Order of the Holy Family ~ along with Micheal Ziants in 2009

Today, January 10th, 2018, would have been Sister Thecla’s 104th birthday.

Born Agnes Bonner in 1914 in Scott, LA, Sister Thecla was a nun in New Orleans’ Order of the Holy Family for 75 years!

I first met the good sister through mutual friend John Lee in the aftermath of a rather painful divorce.  We took to each other immediately.  She wore her air of peaceful equanimity and compassionate non-judgment like a crown.

Calling the house every night for 7 straight years, she consoled and comforted, listened and directed, laughed and cried … and prayed with me.

Would that we all could make the ‘other side’ so clearly visible from this one.

Sister Thecla in 1934, as she took her vows to be a nun. I always used to tease her that we would get Halle Berry to play her in the made-for-TV movie! 🙂

Never one to proselytize, catechize or evangelize – ‘Sister Tee’ showed by her example, the way she lived her life every minute of everyday … the way to a Kingly life.

After all, True religion is not something to be ‘put on’ for an hour or two a week in a building, but rightly used is knit into the day-to-day fabric of our very lives.  Wow!  Did Thecla ever get that.

Through her 75 year run as a nun she led the posse at the Order, in the French Quarter originally, and then on Chef Menteur, through quite a litany list of soap operas … as they tended to the temporal, as well as the spiritual, needs of everyone!

That’s everyone.  From hookers, homeless and drug addicts … to abandoned children and severely abused women.  The Sisters of the Order of the Holy Family even took in Louis Armstrong at one point in his life.

In 2004, on her 90th birthday, Sister Thecla visited the Airlift Productions Studios to record her life story


*** Thecla Therapy  ~  “What a Wonderful World” from Airlift ***

Sister Thecla’s unyielding faith, relentless compassion, and inner strength are captured in her voice.  Listen to just a bit of this remarkable spirit – the patron saint of Airlift Productions –  in this recording made on her 90th birthday in 2004.

Sister Thecla hanging with the sinners – the Ziants boyz Ben & Micheal – on Thanksgiving 2004

Though she dropped her body in 2009, I won’t say ‘rest in peace’ at this point.  Because she’s still at it today … planning her work, and working her plan.  That’s what that Roman Catholic concept of ‘communion of the saints’ is really all about.

Let me just say God Speed, ‘Sister Tee’!  And thanks ever so for helping me to be a little more than just human … and for helping Airlift Productions in NOLA to be  a little something more than just a recording studio.

Airlift’s Micheal Ziants and BFF Sister Thecla hanging around the Order of the Holy Family commissary on Father’s Day 2008



“Mike, thank you for 25 years of successfully teaching Algebra to children of color and students who were living in poverty. They aren’t living in poverty anymore thanks to you and the mathematical skills you gave them. They are doctors, engineers and scientists today.” ~ the late JOHN R. LEE, founder & creator of the I CAN Learn Mathematics Educational Software



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

The Law, Sex & Guitars… Metaphors & More ~ Courtesy Airlift Productions

A TV Screenshot of New Orleans “Legal-Minute” Attorney Greg DiLeo, plying his trade via N’awlins flat screens all over town

If you live in or around metro New Orleans, his messages are everywhere and unmistakable.  As N’awlins “Legal Minute” attorney, Greg DiLeo – on TV, radio, even I-phone apps –  makes legal matters, well, um … matter!

But what many do not know is that this is one extremely talented and versatile dude! He can ‘pound the boards’ at local theaters on-stage, sing, play the guitar & harmonica … and even compose & write his own songs. Well!

Attorney by day, song writer & troubadour by night, Greg DiLeo  records his music at Airlift Productions

And one thing, among others, that separates me from the 1001 other VoiceOver dudes all over the internet is that I own and operate a REAL recording studio! And I know how to use it.

So, this past week Greg returned to the Airlift Productions Studios, along with a couple kindred spirits, to put the finishing touches on the salty, colorful, metaphor-filled, Leon-Redbone-ish “Mississippi River Bridge”.  A torch song it ain’t.

With an amazingly brilliant touch on the violin, NOCCA grad and local star Donald Surtain dropped by to drop his tracks.  Perhaps you caught Donald in the Academy Award winning “12 Years A Slave” playing the REAL violin beside Chewitel Ejiofor in a scene or two.

Violin Virtuoso Donald Surtain lays down his totally awesome violin tracks at Airlift Productions January 2015 (photo by: Ben Ziants)

In any event, Donald, who plays live with Greg around town, along with percussionist extraordinaire Michael Skinkus stopped by to add their two cents. Gee, I found myself googling and you-tubing the Cajon to find out exactly what in the heck this thing even was.

The Cajon (ka-HONE) is of African-Peruvian descent and could best be described as a drum kit ‘in-a-box’, and one plays it by sitting on it and banging on it. So, add a couple of cymbals for flourishing finishing touches and you’re good-to-go.

Enter Michael Skinkus on the Cajon ….

Percussionist Extraordinaire Michael Skinkus entertains on “MS River Bridge” at Airlift Productions, NOLA January 2015 (photo by: Ben Ziants)

Oh-kay now, take Greg DiLeo’s thought-provoking lyrics & melody + Greg’s penetrating vocals + Greg’s sizzling guitar + Donald Surtain’s velvet violin + Michael Skinkus’ toe-tapping Cajon & Cymbals and it all = 1 Amazingly Fun tune!

Crank-up the speakers on your designated digital device and LISTEN.  “Mississippi River Bridge” sounds like this —

** “Mississippi River Bridge” recorded at Airlift Productions **

Yes, TV-Radio Attorney by Day and Song Writer & Troubadour by Night Greg DiLeo continues to mystify and amaze us with his masterful microphone maneuvers.  Catch-up with more of his passion at his music web site here ~ Greg DiLeo Music

And tell ’em Airlift Mike sent you.

(L-R) Airlift’s Micheal Ziants, Violinist Donald Surtain, and Performer Greg DiLeo, along with his seriously serious ’bout bein’ serious face on … at the Airlift Productions Studios, NOLA January 2015 (photo by: Ben Ziants)

“Where the warmth of analogue lives … and the lightning speed of digital delivers” ~ Airlift Productions, NOLA