This was Derek Mio's first role. He heard about auditions from a relative who saw a casting notice in a local paper. However, when Mio's casting submission was received, he had already been recommended to director Chris Tashima by his friend François Chau, who had recently seen Mio at a commercial audition.
The original title of the film was "Independence Day," which is the title of the play it is adapted from. However, to try to avoid being overshadowed by the well known Will Smith movie, the producers changed the name during preproduction.
Lisa Onodera was originally approached to produce the film, in summer of 2002. She was very interested, but also 7 months pregnant, and decided the timing was too risky for the production. Another producer was brought onboard, but then lost, and filming was postponed. By the time production was remounted in spring of 2003, Onodera had given birth to a healthy baby, and was able to sign on as producer.
François Chau was originally cast as The Umpire. During an unexpected 9-month delay of production (while a replacement producer was sought), Chris Tashima decided he wanted to play the character, and recast himself in the role.
The name of the character, Frances, played by Lisa Joe, is named in tribute to Joe's mother, Frances Sue Okabe, who passed away from lung cancer a few months before filming. Okabe was a well known music teacher and singing instructor in Los Angeles, and a good friend of many involved with the production. Okabe was interned as a teenager during World War II at the Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho, where she was famous for her singing. Joe recorded the National Anthem for the soundtrack in a studio on Mother's Day in 2003, and kept a photo of her mother on the music stand, while she sang.
Dan Kwong coached lead actor Derek Mio in old-style baseball pitching for the role. Kwong, who is a writer, actor, filmmaker and performance artist, is also a baseball player for the Li'l Tokio Giants.
Executive producer and playwright Tim Toyama appears in one of the montage sequences, as a painter standing by an easel. Toyama stepped in at the last moment when the person cast to play the part didn't show up for filming.
Many of the scenic flats used to construct the internment camp barracks were recycled from the CNN Newsroom set in Live from Baghdad (2002). That movie's production designer, Richard Hoover, is a friend of Tom Donaldson, who served as lead carpenter on this film.
To more accurately portray a story of imprisonment, director Chris Tashima wanted to include images of the guard towers that were a prominent historical element of the relocation centers. However, constructing a 40-foot tower was proving to be too expensive. To save time and resources, only the "Booth" section was fabricated, then raised on a construction scissor-lift, to give it the proper height for filming. The lift was replaced with CGI "Legs" in post-production. Also, at the suggestion of John Esaki, a 1/4-scale model was built. The model is featured in one shot in the film, and on the movie poster. The same model has also subsequently appeared in other films: Esaki's Stand Up for Justice (2004) and The Manzanar Fishing Club (2012).
Masi Oka (then unknown) auditioned for the role of Tad, in 2002, but director Chris Tashima didn't feel he was off-beat enough. 4 years later, Oka would become famous for his role in Heroes (2006) TV series.
In 2002, Parry Shen auditioned for the role of Zip, and by far gave one of the strongest readings, according to director Chris Tashima. But Tashima was concerned that Shen, who was in his late 20s, could be believable onscreen as a 17 year old, especially opposite Marcus Toji, who was actually in his late teens, and who the director wanted for the role of best friend Hog. Ironically, Shen had just come off playing a teenager - in Justin Lin's Better Luck Tomorrow (2002).