Meet Caleb Payne, 11, nominee for a Young Artist Academy award in Hollywood

Caleb Payne. Picture: Supplied

Caleb Payne. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 27, 2022


Hailing from Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, 11-year-old Caleb Payne has been nominated by the Young Artist Academy™ in Hollywood in the Feature Film Leading Youth Artist category.

Payne’s nomination for his role as Jetmir in the movie “Good Life” comes as a first for South Africa in the 43 years of the Academy’s history. Award-winning comedian and host of “The Daily Show’ Trevor Noah is the only other South African to receive a Young Artist Academy award, for journalistic excellence in 2020.

Since 1978, the Young Artist Academy has produced Hollywood’s first and longest-running youth awards, held annually in Los Angeles.

The independently produced South African film “Good Life” for Netflix 2021 was directed by Bonnie Rodini, also a South African and shot entirely in and around Cape Town during the 2020 winter lockdown.

The film also stars award winning actors Erica Wessels, Sven Ruygrok, Robyn Scott and Jennifer Steyn. The Albanian refugee that Payne plays, Jetmir, is at the heart of the story.

Payne has also appeared in notable films such “The Kissing Booth 3” and other work includes roles in successful television series such as “Resident Evil”, “Warrior season one and two and “Lincoln” (History 2021).

Payne’s passion for drama and acting began with commercials when he was just six years old. Being unschooled has allowed him to be able to seriously pursue his acting career. “Unschooling” is when parents don’t follow a set curriculum.

Congratulations on your nomination, how does it feel to be nominated for this award and what does it mean for you, especially at your young age?

Caleb Payne: Thank you. I appreciate that – I am very blessed. Being nominated for this award is exciting. “Good Life” was such a small movie and now that it’s been picked up by the Young Artist Academy is incredible. This is a big step in my career. I’m looking forward to the red carpet and I am a little nervous.

My aunt, who is a designer, is working on my outfit and it is super cool. I have not been to Hollywood before, so this trip will also include other things I am wanting to do like visit Universal Studios and Disneyland. Surfing in Malibu and I owe my sister a photo at the Hollywood sign. This is actually a dream come true.

How was it being a part of the production of "Good Life” – what did you learn?

CP: “Good Life” was my first leading feature film. Erica and Sven aren’t just fellow actors that taught me a lot – we are friends now. I am so lucky to have role models that allow me to be myself on set and learn from them where I want to.

Covid had many of us on set, maybe appreciating one another more because many of us had not been able to get out for a while. It was a nice and small set and crew – they answered all my questions. From the sound man Greg to camera queen Mielies. I would be lucky to work with them again.

How were you able to find the balance between unschooling and acting?

CP: My parents believe in natural learning, so I can choose what activities I want to do and being unschooled gives me more time and freedom to explore my natural talents and interests that include kung fu, fencing and dancing. I also love surfing at Strand Beach and skateboarding at the Cloetesville skatepark in Stellenbosch or The Shed in Cape Town.

I learn lines, practise my arts and enjoy them all in different ways.I think I find the balance easier than my parents and my sister because my daily activities on set are very similar where my parents and my sister’s daily lives are completely different when I am filming. I love them for all that they sacrifice for me.

What other roles are in the pipeline for you?

CB: You will see me next in Kelsey Eagen’s “The Fix” with Grace van Dien and Daniel Sharman. I am very excited to see how Kelsey puts this movie together. Her current movie, ‘Glasshouse’ is so good. I wish I had a role in that apocalyptic era.

I have a small role in “Donkerbos”, a new series coming to DStv. Director, Nico Scheepers, has written a dark series which I am proud to be part of. I might be in a small short film or two. I will be in LA for a few weeks around the award ceremony, hopefully meeting lots of people in the industry of Hollywood.

I am also excited for an Afrikaans play “Eduard II” which Marthinus Basson is directing – it will be a big venture. Scary but I know that it will make me a better actor.

The Young Artist Academy award ceremony takes place in Los Angeles on October 2, 2022.

Payne has to make his own way there and to this end his parents have initiated a BackABuddy campaign.