Thymaya Payne is a University of Chicago and AFI graduate born in New York City and currently residing in Los Angeles and New York. Payne is also an award-winning documentary and narrative film maker with extensive production and project management experience. In 2008 Payne began a four-year journey to direct and produce an in-depth documentary about Somali piracy and its root causes called Stolen Seas. The film premiered at the Locarno Film Festival and was awarded the Boccolino' D'oro. Later, at the Palm Springs Film Festival, Stolen Seas won the John Schlesinger award for best documentary. "A dangerous 90-minute immersion in a world where lawlessness applies to all sides" said Variety. The New York Times called the Stolen Seas "Magnificent". Stolen Seas was theatrically released in early 2013.