‘Making things simply won’t be the same without him’: remembering David Hayman

The revered music supervisor was an integral part of Toronto's indie scene, working on titles including Kim's Convenience and Once Were Brothers.

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The Ontario production community was rocked last week by news of the death of David Hayman, a prolific and highly regarded music supervisor who had become an integral part of Toronto’s indie scene over the past decade and a half.

Hayman, the chief music supervisor and creative director at Toronto’s Supergroup Sonic Branding Co., died suddenly in his home on May 19.

Known by most as “Huey,” Hayman worked on everything from the smallest indie features to the biggest and most acclaimed Canadian TV series during a career that touched many in the film and television business.

His TV credits include Nirvanna the Band the Show, Kim’s Convenience, Letterkenny, Schitt’s Creek and Utopia Falls, while on the film side he lent his musical vision to projects to titles such as Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band and Born to Be Blue.

A GoFundMe page, set up for his wife Ali and daughter Ruby, has already raised $76,000 as of press time.

Below are some reflections, thoughts and memories from screen collaborators who worked with Hayman.

Matthew Miller & Matt Johnson, Zapruder Films

We are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of our friend David Hayman. Music plays a huge role in all of our work, and David has been a key collaborator by our side since day one. On The Dirties we had no money and he waived his fee so that we could afford the music we needed. He was always most interested in relationship building and investing in emerging filmmakers and was incredibly generous with his time, expertise and resources. In typical David fashion, he reached out a few weeks ago, just to see how we were holding up during the pandemic. We talked about our families, the death of Bill Withers and then discussed an upcoming project. We told him we’d send the script when it was ready and we’d start jamming on some ideas. He said he was excited and that we’d talk soon, but sadly that won’t happen and making things simply won’t be the same without him. Our thoughts are with his wife, daughter and huge circle of friends and family.

R.T. Thorne, filmmaker and creator of Utopia Falls

From the day David and I met we had one of those instant kindred spirit connections, where you know you’re vibrating on a similar frequency. Music and art had played such a huge roll in both our lives, there was no question that he had to be my partner in bringing Utopia Falls to life. The show is literally about using the power of music to change culture and society, and in a way that’s what he’s been doing throughout his career, so I understand why it resonated with him so deeply. He transformed our show doing things musically that no other Canadian show has ever done, just as he transformed this industry with his dedication to his community and the talent in it. I’ve also been transformed by his beautiful, and generous spirit, and am blessed to have been able to call him my friend.

Jordan Canning, director

I met David nine years ago when making my first feature. I was cold calling him for advice – we had basically no money, and I didn’t know the first thing about licensing songs. By the end of the conversation he had offered to take on the project for free and ended up helping us every step of the way. After that, David was my go-to, and my friend. He put together the music for my second film – all 22 songs – a soundtrack that we were both endlessly proud of.

David was an absolute champion of independent filmmakers. He was generous, dedicated and so enthusiastic about helping you get exactly what you needed for your movie, even if you didn’t have much money. He gave you the same care and commitment as he did the big budget shows he worked on. He adored his job and he genuinely loved and supported the artists he got to work with. This is such a gutting loss to our community.

Zach Gayne, director of States 

In a time when precious few believed in me, David Hayman did so with abandon, investing everything he had to bring to the table to help get my dream, which became his as well, out into the world. On top of his regular duties as music supervisor extraordinaire, not only did David personally handle all of the graphic designs for StatesTheMovie.com and beyond, but his profound moral support, positive aura, and inspiring friendship were an integral force in getting our aggressively uncommercial film to the finish line against all odds. The man was nothing short of a guardian angel to me and I’ll forever feel this loss.

Working with David was never work. In the three years it took us to make our film States a reality, I always enjoyed biking to his offices for our too-long hangout meetings, dreaming away the aft and shooting the shit like instant old friends. He used the word love often, because his love was big. I know I’m far from the only one who reciprocated his big love and my heart is with everyone hurting right now.

Dan Montgomery, producer, Anne at 13,000 Feet

I only met David last year and we quickly jumped into a project together. His enthusiasm and commitment to the craft was palpable. The industry will truly miss everything David brought forward as a collaborator and as a person.

Kevin White and Ins Choi, Kim’s Convenience

David was a great guy to work with and a huge booster of local music. He championed Toronto indie bands and musicians and brought a ton of love and enthusiasm to the music of Kim’s. His big laugh, positive vibes and ongoing support of artists will be greatly missed.

Sandra Cunningham, Strada Films and producer on Kim’s Convenience

Kim’s Convenience wears its Toronto immigrant culture on its sleeve. David Hayman understood both things and from the beginning recruited local musicians and bands to be part of the show. His love of music, musicians and movie/TV culture was irrepressible and frankly irreplaceable. We are going to miss him greatly.

Peter Harvey, producer 

David was one of a kind. A true friend and collaborator. I was always so excited to call him whenever I had a new project to talk music. Figure out how to make the film sound amazing. His creative side never ceased to amaze me. It’s going to be hard to make films without him.

Julian De Zotti, creator/writer, For The Record; Whatever, Linda

David and I were a week away from finishing a passion project we had been collaborating on for four years. It was a huge undertaking personally and professionally and there were countless times when we thought it was over. But, at every step, David was a source of inspiration and an active cheerleader. He was the best collaborator – elevating any work with his curatorial brilliance, his encyclopedic knowledge, and his indefatigably positive attitude. He would always find a way to support your vision, showing you a (better) route you didn’t believe was possible. He exceeded your expectations, finding that perfect piece of music you didn’t think existed to amplify a scene or a moment. He believed in you as an artist usually more than you were able to yourself. He went above and beyond as a colleague and as a friend. He was beloved, super cool, and a kind soul. Like the music he cherished, his spirit will live on – in all the artists and projects he championed, supported, and fiercely advocated for. I can’t wait to share our special collaboration with the world. I couldn’t have done it without him. Rest in Peace, D.

Geordie Sabbagh, filmmaker, producer

David was the type of guy you wanted to make it for.  Someone you could finally turn to and say thanks for helping me for all these years for nothing, go licence the Beatles. Of course, David would come back with some unknown Canadian band and tell you to use them instead!

David always gave you a shoulder to stand on, a boost, seemingly whenever you needed it most. David made you a better artist simply by believing you were.

Kari Hollend, producer

The world lost a treasure. A girl lost her father, a wife lost her love, a family lost a son and brother. The music and entertainment industry lost one of the greatest creative minds it’s ever known. We have all lost a friend. This is an enormous tragedy because Dave “Huey” Hayman was the perfect example of how we should all conduct ourselves. He put people first. He cared so much. He listened. He gave back and never asked for anything in return. He was all passion and heart. It’s not because he was so good at what he did that made him stand apart from the crowd, it’s who he was. Irreplaceable in every way, he has been taken too soon.