In my now nearly 40 years of recording voice overs, radio/TV, AudioBooks & musicians at Airlift Productions in America’s most fascinating and interesting city, you could say that I’ve encountered quite a few characters.
Doctor John (aka Mac Rebennack) has spent hours with me, recording voice-over tracks for awards shows, and even cartoon voice tracks for Quincy Jones’ Take it Back Foundation.
I still can’t get over that, not even asking if he could smoke, at the Airlift Productions Iberville location, he pulled out a cheroot at the mic and lit it up! (We rushed an ash tray in to his rescue.)
For several years in the 90s, Peyton & Eli’s dad Archie Manning had the Gold’s Gym franchise here just outside NOLA in Metairie, and I served as a one-man ad agency, writing, voicing & producing all the radio ads for the gym, which brought Archie & his partners regularly into the Airlift Productions Studios.
** Archie Manning’s Golds Gym Christmas Radio :60 Classic – with Airlift Mike as Santa, along with Archie, at the Airlift mics **
The cast of characters – from the mayors (both Morial & Landrieu), to all the city council members, Morgus the Magnificent, stand-up/fall-down comics, radio rebels, misfits, in-laws and outlaws has become the stuff of legend.
But I would have to say the most memorable and colorful of them all is none other than James Carville!
We’ve spent dozens of hours together one-on-one – with only a producer, long distance on a phone-patch Skype connection – recording two separate audio books, ‘It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!’ and, along with wife Mary, ‘Love & War’.
Now, by his own admission, James has untreated ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). He’s tried the drugs but didn’t like how they made him feel, so he and Mary just ‘deal with it’. Add (ADHD) me to the list.
Imagine working through hour-after-hour with someone in this situation and condition. Add to that, someone very highly opinionated (ya think?), outspoken, given to tantrums … and ‘caged’ for an extended length of time! Yowza & Yikes!
“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 quite frankly, the comfort, make it the only place I want to record now or in the future” ~ James Carville
And, needless to say, but I will anyway, the out-takes are simply priceless! Perhaps a tale for a blog for yet another day.
A candid shot – through the studio door into the Airlift ‘green room’ – of Carville on the cell, taking a needed break, talking to George Stephanopolous in DC, with his feet ON my ping-pong table! Really, James?
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, 32 years later, we’re still at it!
Our most recent project? Recording and compiling every electronic message for every streetcar and bus – even the ferries – in the cityof 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 **
Rich Lenznow calls Tulsa, OK & OETA home, a gone pecan from NOLA for well over ten years now (gee, Thanks, Katrina), but he served for 16 years as sports director/anchor atWDSU.
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 **
After meeting former 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.
** Rachel’s VO Demo, with her daughter’s cutesy intro **
The latest project? VoiceOver for “Glory Days”, an homage to the passions and victories of Newman High School’sfootball 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?
The Airlift Productions studio doors are always open to Heath Allen . A veteran reporter for decades at WDSU. Heath carved-out his reputation in the early days all over Baton Rouge TV, and is today enjoying a well-deserved retirement on the north shore with his Janet.
His compassionate, and knowledgeable in-the-field reporting was always incisive and spot-on. And he picks quite a guitar, at that. The magic Heath brought to our Children’s Hospital Telethon tunes is the stuff of legend.
2023 continues to see local NOLA news veteran Camille Whitworthdrop by from time to time for various VO commercial and industrial projects.
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 forclients in and around NOLA.
Dependable, personable, and experienced, Camille is always fun to have around the Airlift Studios.
Truth is, 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’.
“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
On day one of the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season, some personal reflection —The National Weather Service defines the “Eye” as the region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones.
Metaphorically, then, while the ever-changing media & technology would be the tropical cyclones/hurricanes, Airlift Productions & I would be the ones whohave for nearly forty years resided… calmly persistent & steady – in the hurricane’s eye.
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 change to Gannet/Tegna, and Entercom to Audacy – my oh 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, while at the same time, tacking into the winds of change.
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 collage of a Life lived in the Hurricane’s Eye…
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, Deuce McAllister, Congressman Steve Scalise, Amy Landon, Dr. Morgus/Sid Noel, Rachel Wulff, Tim Weston, Jamie Neumann, Sean O’Shea, Sister Thecla, even studio mascot The Shadeaux, the studio’s stained glass window and game room!
From radio commercials, TV voice-overs, podcasts & audio books, to educational software, industrial training & safety videos, and 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.
“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 ***
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? AI, VR, the Metaverse?
Well, whatever it is, you can rest assured that Airlift Productions and I will be there, sitting calmly determined & ever persistent – in the Hurricane’s Eye.
“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
Boy, just when you thought you had all the answers … they changed all the questions!
Watching classic ‘Mad Men’ episodes 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 have :30 spots sell you stuff … ‘interruption marketing/advertising’ was, last century, THE way to get your message across.
Today in 2022 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!
‘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 online, making yourself available 24-7-365, and letting the potential buyer know about your satisfied customers while online 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.
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!
From 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 Testimonials page here – when YOU are ready, 24-7-365 – and we’ll be there for you!
And trust me, Mad Men’s Don Draper wouldn’t have had a clue!
“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 hugeAirlift 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.”
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.
As the great souls Emerson & Thoreau taught me, “Build a better mousetrap – and the world will beat a path to your door.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
“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
In “Love & War: 20 Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters & One Louisiana Home”, James Carville and Mary Matalin detail a life few could imagine, let alone live!
A life lived at the intersection of Power, Politics and a Changing America … and while in the middle of it all, trying to keep a relationship together and raise two daughters – all at the same time.
And, boy, does politics ever make for strange bedfellows! James steered the Clinton presidential campaign both times (even steered him through the Lewinsky scandal), and Mary, who served under both Bush presidencies, was IN the White House the fateful morning of the 9-11 attack in the skies over Manhattan. Bush wasn’t. Mary was.
Their stories, their first-hand accounts, their front-row seats to some of America’s most fascinating recent history are palpable, riveting, and most remarkable.
And capturing it all through the Airlift Productions microphones for posterity in the audio book version of “Love & War” simply has to be one of my most remarkable gigs so far this century.
The sentiment, the candor, the forthright honesty, the raw emotion. Admittedly, I felt alternately like a coach, a cheerleader, a psychiatrist … and even a priest in a confessional!
One of my fave stories from James was of his trip to Miami for the Saints SuperBowl win, wherein he details being on the field with Drew Brees, then off to the shuttle bus for transport back to the hotel. On the bus, he re-connects with the legendary Archbishop of Orleans Phillip Hannan. Then, who steps on the bus but Kim Kardashian, who’s “seeing” Saint running back Reggie Bush at the time. Imagine, if you can, James – now sitting in between these two and facilitating the introductions! Oh my. Comedy ensues…
** Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants reflects on his first-of-many recording sessions with James Carville, along with some classic James quips and thoughts … oh my! **
The very first day I recorded with Mary Matalin, she showed-up dressed to thrill! All dolled-up and made-up, decked-out for a night on the town – ah, to record with me in a dimly lit studio all afternoon? H-m-m…, I said, whaddup with dat? Well, after four arduous hours at the mic (a quite impressive feat, I might add), she stands up and says, “Well, gotta’ go, Bill’s in town!” And just like that, she & hubby James were off to dinner in the French Quarter – with Bill Clinton!
I could go on and on about our collective twenty-some hours of recording and working together, but you get the idea. One of the – if not THE – most fascinating sets of recording sessions I’ve ever logged at the Airlift studio and witnessed. Let alone orchestrated!
The News, it has been said, is History – the First Draft. And two ‘Wrongs’ don’t make a ‘Right’. But three ‘lefts’ will!
As a profound political atheist, I don’t have a dog in this hunt. But in the case of these two, I was certainly thrilled to be saddled-up and along for the ride.
And the next time you hear that old line, “Politics sure makes for strange bedfellows!” – now you know the rest of the story.
“I have 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, Tulane professor and Campaign Strategist behind the most dramatic political victories of our generation.
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.
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
“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 outenvironment 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 withwww.airliftproductions.com
Thanks for the great week my friend! :)”
— SEAN O’SHEA, Los Angeles-based Dog Trainer & AudioBook Producer
That October morning Mary showed up to record – and dressed to thrill – little did I know at first but, after the session, she was off to the French Quarter with hubby James for dinner and drinks with Bill Clinton!
Her tireless on-mic performance that day was really something… one bathroom break in four straight hours of recording.
“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
If a thirty second radio ad is a sprint, audio book recording would have to be the marathon.
To capture the spirit, essence & dedication of an author is without question a meticulous, pain-staking and arduous ( do you like these words? ) task.
With four Grammy awards on the shelf – for Best Spoken Word (3X) as well as Best Comedy Album – Audio Book producerJohn F. McElroyknows the task well.
John has personally worked with and recorded ( for hours on end ) Jon Stewart, Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Jason Alexander, Stephen Colbert, along with scores of other notables.
And just imagine, if you can, working with, directing & producing President Bill Clinton through his personal reading of his triumphs & tribulations in the Grammy Award winning autobiography “My Life”. I mean, really.
The amazing thing? All of our work was conducted via Skype and a Symetrix phone patch. John & I have never personally met. Similar to the set-up of a radio talk show host, we did all of this work, every second of every hour with John F. coaching and directing long distance from New York!
Quite a remarkable feat. Quite amazing sessions. Quite a Marathon indeed.
Mr. McElroy, thanks for the vote of confidence, sir. I’m certainly gratified to know that Airlift and I did not misplace your trust.
“Micheal Ziants and I have worked on a number of celebrity productions together. He’s a cool head in tight spots, keeping the talent moving ahead happily. He has a wealth of experience at the controls and behind the mic and knows what he can and can’t get–a valuable and rare sense of proportion. Working at Airlift remotely via Skype or phone patch is seamless. It’s like being in the next room.”
~ John F. McElroy, New York based Grammy Award winning Audio Book Producer
The email came into the Airlift Studios, innocently enough, just a couple weeks back.
It was a referral (my favorite kind of email) from the Studio Director at Blackstone Audio, the largestindependent audio book publisher in America.
Bryan had been referred to Airlift Productions & me by the same audio book producer who’d hired me to record James Carville for the first time. And the second time. And the third time.
Taking the words of America’s preeminent ‘dog whisperer’ and making them leap off the page in a new audio book treatment, in an effort to help dog lovers across the world wake up to a more ethical and nurturing approach to raising their little canine cuties.
Zak & I first met and went to work (?) on Thursday, October 6th, recording the audio book treatment of his destined-to-be bestseller for Blackstone, along with hot-shot producer Jared Garcia on the Airlift Studio’s phone-patch setup.
Together, we plowed through the introduction and chapter after chapter, while bonding and laughing, and creating the doggie lover’s ultimate tome – “Dog Training rEvolution”.
Sample just a taste of Zak’s genuine love & compassion for our favorite four footed furry friends in his most recent You Tube blast here ….
Monday and Tuesday we’ll be back at it – giving LIFE to words on paper… making Audio Book Magic!
Recording and mastering wave files into computers, and at the same time delivering sincere, honest emotion into headphones and speakers.
Don’t you just love people who’ve found a way to make life work?
I mean, a job is one thing … but when one has found a way to live life at the intersection of passion/compassion and opportunity/luck … well, that’s quite another.
“Micheal Ziants & I have worked on a number of celebrity productions together. He’s a cool head in tight spots, keeping the talent moving ahead happily. He has a wealth of experience at the controls and behind the mic, and knows what he can and can’t get — a valuable and rare sense of proportion. Working at Airlift Productions remotely via Skype or phone patch is seamless. It’s like being in the next room.”
— JOHN F. McELROY, New York based Grammy Award Winning Audio Book Producer