GENRE: Historical Epic/Love Story.
STATUS: Selected scenes filmed.
LOGLINE: An Asian American girl, adopted by Caucasian parents, grows up during the war years in Los Angeles, and despite prejudice becomes an achiever and outstanding citizen until her untimely death at Manzanar.
IMDb: Lisa Patterson
COMPANY NOTES: This epic love story, the brainchild of LA producer Jerry Wayne (pictured at right), is a developing project initiated in 2014 that has attracted a team of talent, crew, and supporters from both Los Angeles and Honolulu. Inspired by Wayne, who conceived the story from a dream about his childhood when his family once employed a 17-year-old Asian girl as his nanny who had to relocate to Manzanar, the team is committed to producing this dramatic tale. Lisa Patterson is about a woman of amazing ability and courage who stands as a symbol of the patriotism that all AJAs (Americans of Japanese Ancestry) displayed amidst the racism that was prevalent during the time of WWII. YBS producer Eric Nemoto joined the team as a screenwriter and proceeded to write the screenplay that is being used to seek investors. NOTE: While some scenes were filmed (see “Production Update”), sadly, Wayne passed away in 2020 (see “In Memoriam”).
Lisa Patterson is a three act epic about a woman who defies the prejudices of her time to become a success in everything she takes on, only to die a senseless death and much too young. The first act follows her as a young girl, where her values are ingrained into her by her loving parents. The second finds her as a successful career woman. And the third act follows her being sent to the Manzanar internment camp where she meets a tragic, “Romeo and Juliet,” kind of ending; a day before her fiance is to pick her up and take her away to get married.
This video, edited by Larry Cortez and narrated by Monica Airo, provides the project’s background and a synopsis of the story.
An old man lies in bed in a vegetative state, the victim of a stroke. Although his body is incapacitated, unbeknownst to anyone his mind and soul are very much alive. He dreams of an Asian American woman he knew when he was young. In the care of his granddaughter, Denise Washburn, and her husband, Randy Washburn, something quite amazing has happened as we begin our story. A sketch of Grandpa as a young man dancing with a young woman with dark hair mysteriously appears one morning in his room. In addition, a handwritten list of destinations, seemingly some kind of personal “bucket list,” is also present. A trip to the doctor reaffirms there was no possible way for the man, a complete invalid, to have done this. So who did? They accept the notion that if some prankster had planted these in their house then the only way to solve this great mystery would be to use the long Memorial Day weekend to take Grandpa to these very sites. “Look,” Randy says, “We were going to do something special for him anyway. Well why don’t we take this trip and do something really special.”
As they go on this journey, Grandpa is reminded of the great love of his life, Lisa Patterson, an Asian American woman who was adopted by Caucasian parents, who was once his fiancee. We discover that Lisa was adopted by Eli and Eleanor Patterson, a prominent Los Angeles couple who for years sought to adopt but who the adoption agency always passed over due to their age (40s) and Eli’s previous health issue of having a heart attack. The Pattersons are advised that they are frankly being approached because they do not think anyone else will take in the child. She is an “Aiko,” or “love child,” whose young parents, contracted migrant workers of the strawberry fields, have returned home to parents who want nothing to do with the infant. Despite the warnings of the social worker who tells them about the likelihood of the child, and them, experiencing constant racial discrimination, the Pattersons do not care. “Lisa,” as they will come to name her, will complete their lives.
As the story of Lisa evolves through the narration that occurs in Grandpa’s mind, he is taken by Denise and Randy to a variety of places in modern day Los Angeles and its surrounding vicinity. They visit the hospital where Lisa was born, her elementary school, a restaurant where Lisa and David and their parents used to dine together, her high school, a beach they used to frequent, their favorite park, and the house where Lisa grew up. As they do, Denise and Randy start to realize that Grandpa is slowly becoming more alert, to the point that at the park that he and Lisa used to frequent when they were young, he lifts his arm to point at a tree they used to sit under. Denise is shockingly elated. “Oh Grandpa, you just made my day! You’ve BEEN making my day!” She exclaims. They continue touring on the first day with a growing sense of optimism. These sites cause Grandpa to tell the story of Lisa in flashback and we discover that she was an A-student and a terrific singer and dancer from the very beginning, and someone who was a born leader who others naturally gravitated to and followed.
In the video above (produced by Jerry Wayne), Jodie Kiyokawa of Honolulu, Hawaii, cast as the young “Lisa Patterson,” conveys the innocence of youth that embodies Act One. As she sings and tap dances, she hits a “10” on the cute and talented scale.
See the article in LA’s Japanese newspaper, Rafu Shimpo, about Jodie and Lisa Patterson: Amid Heavy Subjects, Island Star Rises
As Grandpa tells his story, we see Lisa as a bright, exuberant and talented child. She sings and dances to “I’m A Yankee Doodle Dandy” at her 7th grade talent show. But the innocence of young Lisa is brutally shattered one afternoon on her way home from school. Other girls call her a “Yellow Jap girl,” and throw mayonnaise on her to “make her white.” She tells Eleanor who finally tells Lisa that she was adopted; however that she is, in their eyes, their true daughter. “Those mean girls can only defeat you, Lisa, if you let them. Don’t let them. Hold your head up high.” The words become not only sage advice but prophetic for how Lisa grows up and leads her life. For despite the prejudice of the times she becomes student body president during her middle and high schools, eventually graduates with honors from UCLA, and is hired by Ben Silverstein as his General Manager for “Uncle Ben’s Musical Review,” a nightclub in Hollywood. Lisa’s unique combination of brains and talent immediately make her the “go-to” gal and a favorite of both Ben and his backroom buddies. She recruits young burgeoning talent including singer/dancer, Jordan Dickson, singer/dancer, Betty Garber, and dancers, Arlene Tokushima and Janice Watanabe, who help her turn the club into the hottest spot in all of LA. As a side story that develops at “Uncle Ben’s,” Arlene and Janice develop a fondness for each other that Lisa discovers and subsequently sadly shows empathy. However, this is something she must hide from Ben, whose only restriction to Lisa in how she manages the club is that she never hires any “fruits or lesbians.”
In the video below (produced by Jerry Wayne), we hear the kinds of music, as well as see some of the production types, that he envisions to be performed during Act Two of our story; which reflects the gaiety of Lisa’s highly successful years of being the GM at “Uncle Ben’s Musical Reveiw,” just before the clouds of war arrive with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
During these years of growing up, through her school years, and in pursuing her career, Lisa meets what will be the love of her life, David Pinkerton. Their childhood infatuation for each other blossoms into true love. During a quiet moment they share at their favorite park, David discusses, in a somewhat joking manner, how death should not be a totally grieving matter and in fact is something that one should celebrate. To this David announces that a great way to go is to die on one’s birthday, for which he reveals that he is born on May 30th, “Decoration Day,” the precursor of Memorial Day. In addition Lisa reveals that she’s loved David since the day they first met. “We’ve known each other since we were in diapers, Lisa,” David says. “Since we first met,” Lisa confirms. They promise to marry, although interracial marriages are forbidden.
Their love is plagued by heart wrenching challenges. David, a career Coast Guard officer, is transferred to Connecticut and there he is lured by the clutches of Andrea Taylor, a beautiful woman of Upper East Society who promises him that he could go as far as he wants with her and her family’s backing. Discovering this, Lisa is heartbroken. To make matters worse, America, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, goes to war and Japanese Americans are rounded up and sent to internment camps. Lisa and the two other Asian Americans at the club, Arlene and Janice, are sent to Manzanar. At the train station, David arrives in the nick of time to apologize and beg forgiveness. He has seen the error of his ways and realizes that he and Andrea, who has revealed herself to be a blatant racist, were never meant for each other. He and Lisa are. Lisa finds forgiving David difficult, but his sincere apology and a surprise proposal with a diamond ring helps turn the tide and he wins her over. David vows that as soon as Lisa is set free he will pick her up and they’ll get married some how, somewhere.
Back in the present, after a research trip to the LA library, Randy returns to the motel just as Denise is getting Grandpa ready for their second day of touring. He announces that the people that lived in the house they visited were Eli and Eleanor Patterson who had an adopted daughter, Lisa Aiko Patterson. The name “Aiko” makes them put some pieces together. The woman in the sketch had an Asian appearance and they deduce that she must have been Lisa. Randy also finds out that Lisa managed “Uncle Ben’s” from 1940 to 1942 but then seemed to have disappeared. But where to? They get their next clue when they visit the next bucket list site – LA’s Union Station (see below).
There, a revelation hits Denise. “What happened to all Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, Randy?” “They went to internment camps,” Randy retorts, and he and Denise finally put all the pieces together. “Manzanar,” Denise responds, “The last place on our list.” At night at another motel, Denise and Randy talk about the surreal nature of their “magical mystery tour.” They deduce that both the author of the bucket list and the artist of the sketch is none other than this “Lisa Patterson,” whoever and wherever she may be. “What does she want?” Randy asks. Denise responds that she doesn’t know, and frankly doesn’t care. All she wants to do is talk to her grandfather for one last time, not some living mannequin. She confides her inner demons to her husband. “Randy, I never got to thank him. I never got to say ‘Thank you’ for everything he ever did for me.” The next morning, the final day of their long weekend odyssey, they proceed to Manzanar – now a national historical site situated 230 miles northeast of LA at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas – where our stories come together.
Manzanar in the 1940s, when it was one of 10 War Relocation Centers, where 110,000 Japanese Americans were housed in hastily constructed 20 feet by 100 feet barracks during WWII. The 500 buildings were later sold to soldiers for $333 apiece.
We go back to the past where Lisa, true to her nature, becomes the accepted leader of the Internees, which includes feisty Aunt Min and philosophical John Okayama. After some initial discriminatory challenges, she wins over the Guards with her optimistic nature and talent, and gains the respect and admiration of the camp director, Robert Burns. Things suddenly change when the leader of the Guards becomes Lieutenant Thomas Bridges, a racist who sees the Internees as the “enemy.” His many incursions into camp has him discovering the taboo relationship of Arlene and Janice. Lisa pleads with Thomas to not make an official report which will only bring shame to the families. Thomas not only persists, he insults Lisa and her family heritage, causing her to slap him. This lands her in solitary confinement in a make-shift tool shed despite the protest and warnings of his own men. Meanwhile, Thomas holds the meeting with the girls and their parents and reports on their behavior. This brings shame to all and ultimately to the girls taking their lives by hanging themselves.
Imprisoned in the shed, Lisa learns about the girls and it breaks her. Compounded by the physical duress – it’s 110 degrees during the day and near freezing at night – she is profoundly changed. When she is finally released, she is but a shell of herself. As she is nursed back to health by Aunt Min, more devastating news, the death of her father, pushes her over the edge. At night, Lisa, not of present mind, packs her suitcase and leaves camp with the intention of “going home.” Aunt Min discovers this and with the Guards help, try to find Lisa before the evil Lieutenant Bridges discovers she is an escaping prisoner. It is for naught. Bridges discovers what is happening and tells the Guards to “stand fast” while he shoots a warning shot above Lisa’s head as she walks away. But his gun jams and in a tragic turn of events, inadvertently guns Lisa down. The next morning Director Burns discovers two things. One, Bridges has been relieved of his command and may face more serious charges. And two, Lisa’s fiance, David, had been en route for two days to pick her up – the boys in Ben’s back room had succeeded in getting a federal judge to approve Lisa’s early release and be kept under his watch. “God help us all,” Burns prays, as he is also told that David’s intention was to take Lisa directly to Reno so that they could be married. David arrives and is given the crushing news. He is taken to the site where Lisa died upon the desert landscape. There he lays a bouquet of red roses he brought with him. The petals scatter in the wind.
During the present day, Denise and Randy discover that Lisa was indeed an Internee who lived and died at Manzanar, and we realize that Grandpa is indeed David Pinkerton, being called to his destiny by the spirit of Lisa. As they tour the grounds while Grandpa tells his story in his mind, what happened to Lisa comes to life. We see images of the past literally walk throughout the camp grounds; an image in the mind of Grandpa. Or are they? In the end, when Lisa’s death is relived, the utter grief he re-experiences causes Grandpa to astonishingly cry out, “Lisa!” Denise and Randy are overwhelmed when Grandpa seems released from his catatonic trance. He explains that Lisa was, “My one true love.” But it is short lived. As Denise thanks him for all he has done for her, he finally dies in her grieving arms, and Denise is devastated. But Randy shouts for her attention, “Denise!” Together they look out to the majestic desert landscape where Grandpa has transformed back into the young David. He walks out and meets the beautiful young Lisa. And together they dance, just as how the sketch depicted them doing, until they vanish into the next world. Denise and Randy stare in shock and disbelief. Yet it is true. They’ve seen their spirits reunite for all eternity. Denise utters the final line, an ironic yet prophetic ending to this poignant, heart wrenching drama. “Happy Birthday, Grandpa.”
The following video is an excellent description of Manzanar today, which is now called the Manzanar National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service). Here, in this desolate, haunting landscape, portions of Act Three of “Lisa Patterson” will be filmed on site.
Note: This exceptional video was filmed and produced by Jason Cochran and is presented with his consent. Jason is an award winning travel journalist, pop historian, and consumer reporter. More about him can be learned at his website: jasoncochran.com.
Lisa Patterson had actually started filming, albeit in a manner whereby scenes would be shot in accordance to periodic production budgets provided by executive producer Jerry Wayne. There have been two production shoots completed thus far. One shoot was held on August 27th, 2017 (from the script, scenes 10, 14, and 44 were shot), at a rented house (located at 21 Homelani Place, Honolulu, HI, 96817). Scenes were shot both during the day hours and extending into the night. Another two day shoot was held on June 2nd and June 3rd, 2018 (when scenes 9, 23, 26, 27, 28 and an added church scene were shot). Shooting locations on those days included another rented house (located at 1931 Ventura Street, Honolulu, HI, 96822), the Epiphany Episcopal Church, the photography studio of Rick Bernico (located at 1154 Fort Street Mall, Ste 221, Honolulu, HI, 96813), and St. John the Baptist Catholic School. Actors involved have been Tim Jeffryes as Eli Patterson, Rebecca Lea McCarthy as Eleanor Patterson, Eli Foster as Henry Pinkerton, Ann Brandman as Evelyn Pinkerton, Jodie Kiyokawa as young Lisa Patterson, Alexander Dekker as young David Pinkerton, Frankie Enos as Emmeline Collins, Cassady King as Mean Girl 1, and Camille Perry as Mean Girl 2. To identify the specific scenes listed click on the complete Lisa Patterson Script. Unfortunately, Jerry passed away in 2020. His death halted this project.
It was with great sadness that everyone associated with the Lisa Patterson project received the news of the death of its inspirational leader, Jerry Wayne (above), in September of 2020. Jerry’s distinctive voice was always a joy to hear as he would call everyone from time to time to give a progress report on finding supporters and possible investors, and in so doing he would always fill every conversation with his eternal optimism. Jerry dreamed big and, in fact, conceived the idea for Lisa Patterson literally from a dream in which he relived the moment when his childhood Asian nanny was taken from the family home and escorted by military police to Manzanar. Awaking from it, he felt compelled to pen a 70-page story in one sitting, and this then started it all. This treatment, along with ideas developed subsequently, would then be utilized to eventually write a variety of different screenplays. He first approached screenwriter Michelle Yang, who wrote the first version, and then YBS producer, Eric Nemoto, who subsequently wrote two other versions, the last of which is described on this page. Jerry then solicited the services of casting director and director, Renee Garcia, who helped Jerry cast and direct a number of test scenes as well as a conceptual trailer. Jerry loved Hawaii, and somehow, he also felt that the making of the movie would be associated with his desire to visit what he felt was his second home. In wanting a photographer to shoot test shots and promotional photos, he merely looked online for Hawaii photographers and picked out Rick Bernico (inset top left), owner of Hawaii Profiles, and this choice would prove to be extremely fortuitous. For Rick would not only handle the photography at production shoots initiated by Jerry in both Honolulu and Los Angeles, but he would also assist with the development of new story ideas. And every time Jerry visited the islands, aside from working on Lisa Patterson, a visit to a local luau for the two would always be on their itinerary. In short, the two became like brothers, and in Jerry’s passing, Rick has lost a very dear friend. Jerry Wayne was a man of big dreams, who had a very big heart. Two qualities that the world could definitely use more of right now. His departure leaves a great void for everyone. Yet, knowing Jerry, with his fervent commitment to see his dream come true and his irrepressible manner of winning people over, we suspect that he will somehow be sending whatever angels are necessary for his team to make Lisa Patterson a reality. Godspeed Jerry. We will miss you.
Jerry Wayne’s Interview About Lisa Patterson, As Conducted By Eric Nemoto & Filmed By Larry Cortez, August 27, 2017