National Film Festival for Talented Youth | Seattle Youth Film Festival | Student Film Festival


Palled in Elm

Film of the Week

The true story of a young man who, in order to escape his war-torn country, must be sent away in a coffin…alive.

Palled in Elm was an official selection of NFFTY 2013 and won the Audience Award for the category Afternoon Eclectic.

About the Director:


Aaron Seller is 18 years old and has been described by close friends and loved one as “a goofster.” He has a passion for filmmaking that he fuels at Chapman University as a freshman working towards a degree in film production with an emphasis in cinematography. When he’s not working on set he loves to lay back and enjoy the warm California weather.

NFFTY talks to Aaron to find out more about this story.

Q. What inspired to make this film? Any true story behind it? 

Palled in Elm was inspired by the true story of Luka Joncich who was the grandfather of one of my friends (also named Luka Joncich). Luka Sr.was a teenager living in Croatia who was going to be drafted into the army. Although there were no major wars going on at the time, his parents didn’t want him to be drafted. Unfortunately, due to the communist regime in Croatia, he wasn’t able to get out of the country so his parents snuck him out in a coffin and sent him to Italy. When Luka (young Luka) told me that story, I thought that it told an important story, that would also make an interesting film.  We also needed to make a thesis film for my high school’s film program so it coincided perfectly.

Q. Was it tough during casting because the topic of being locked in a coffin might not be that enticing to many people. How did you guys end up choosing the lead actor? 

Interestingly, it was harder to cast the supporting roles than the lead. Because of the age range we were dealing with (late teens to early twenties) it was difficult to find actors who had natural chemistry as well as the ability to convey the complex emotions that many of the scenes required. I had worked with the lead actor, Nic Barbalace, on a couple of other films so I knew he had the talent to make his character come to life, and he was more than willing to accept the challenge of being locked in a coffin.

Q. Has participation in NFFTY helped to pave way for your entrance into the industry? 

I think NFFTY has really helped me as I started going to film school. It helped me with networking. For example, I met a girl at my school who lives in Seattle and attends NFFTY every year so immediately we had a jumping off point. It also gave me invaluable festival experience that I can put on internship résumés. I made a lot of great connections and friends at NFFTY.

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