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An Interview with Dawn Hamil, Producer and Star of When a Stranger Knocks

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2024

Dawn Hamil on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie When a Stranger Knocks - in a few words, what's it about, and what can you tell us about your character in it?


When a Stranger Knocks is about struggle, conflict, letting go and finding strength to overcome. Sky has many regrets and wants to fix trauma of her past to mend relationship with her brother. She is strong but has a hard time letting go in order to heal the relationship she wants to mend.


What did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and how much Dawn Hamil can we find in Sky?


I drew upon reality. Life is far from perfect, finding those moments and reliving them was my core motivation for portraying Sky and what she was going through. 


Besides the real emotions I tapped into, and being a fighter, not too much of Dawn Hamil is found in Sky. It was difficult going to “dark” places and staying there. I am by nature an EXTREMELY happy and positive person. Finding conflict when I wanted to be sweet and caring was not me at all.


How did you get involved with the project in the first place? And how did you end up on the producing side of things as well?


Doing the project was my idea. 2020 happened! As an actor working your way through the gauntlet, Covid shut down was detrimental to our careers. ESPECIALLY not being in large cities and states booming with the industry. In this industry they say “if it’s not happening, make some happen" ... and so I did. Director Javan Garza [Javan Garza interview - click here] had another script I was ecstatic about, and actually thought that might have been the project. When I spoke with him telling him I want to make a feature, I asked how much do we need? He immediately spitballed this idea about a woman camping, finding her way thru woods, and having to face adversity fighting for her life. At that time the feature was named “Savage”. The script went thru a few edits, I found investors, we cast it, found locations, set dates and here we are.


To what degree could you identify with When a Stranger Knocks' approach to horror?


Well… this is the 1st “horror” I’ve actually watched so I can’t actually comment on this.


What were the challenges of bringing When a Stranger Knocks to life from a producer's point of view?


First and foremost’s biggest challenge for me was being confident enough in my ability to make this happen. Second thing I thought would be a big challenge was finding the money. I am so blessed with the people around me, who believe so much in me, and what I do, the majority of the investors heard my heart, and the desire to make this project happen. They offered all on their own. After that, the demand that was placed on everyone with such a small budget was hard for me to watch and bear knowing I could not compensate them more than what we offered. As producer delegating to others when everyone wore 10 hats was very hard for me. But we are a team and I couldn’t do it on my own. Javan couldn’t do it on his own so we all banded together, joined arms, and bore the burden on our shoulders as a cohesive unit. That being said, the challenges that we faced we were able to conquer because we have such a great team.


Do talk about When a Stranger Knocks' director Javan Garza, and what was your collaboration like?


Javan and I balance each other out so well. He’s my little brother. I get to boss him around and he does what I say. It’s perfect ... just kidding. We are able to have 100% open line of communication regarding everything. No emotion just straight fact. That enables our friendship and working relationship to thrive during the highs and the lows of filmmaking and life. He is such a talented individual with such a beautiful mind of creativity, articulating and storytelling. That is not a talent that I have. I am a go-getter and “get things done”-type of person, so I get the privilege of helping him tell his stories, and I absolutely enjoy every single second of it.


When a Stranger Knocks wasn't the first time you've worked with Javan Garza - so what can you tell us about previous collaborations, and how did the two of you first meet even?


Javan and I met 10 years ago. He put out a casting for a short film that required an actress with physical strength and able to endure some hard tasks, and I answered. That short film is now called Bite of the Adder. It’s on YouTube so go watch it. After he got over his first impression of me, the filming of that short, it went great, and he continued to ask me to be in his films. He is definitely an actor's director. He's very generous in letting us as artists work and bring our creativity to the roles and the story as a whole. Melany Rose was the first feature I was involved a little bit in production, and was the lead in that film as well. Each collaboration we do, I believe we both grow leaps and bounds.


Back to When a Stranger Knocks: What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


When a Stranger Knocks, being my first full fledged producer role as well as lead role on top of key hair and makeup, key wardrobe, crafty, and everything else that wasn’t involving the equipment or directing, I feel the atmosphere on set was as good as it could be. One thing I love about smaller productions is the relationships and the closeness that we build with everyone on set. Yes, there were stressful times on set. that first couple days getting into the groove and trying not to work people 24 hours to stay on schedule really opened all of our eyes to the necessity of really being a team. So the atmosphere continued to morph and grow and really became family. Just like any family, there are highs and lows but at the end of the day we all love each other, and we got it done.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of When a Stranger Knocks?


Putting anything of yourself out there you kind of have to be prepared and expect for negativity incoming from anywhere. One take on it that I always have is everyone has a different perspective. There is not one project out there no matter how big the budget, no matter how amazing the director, or the actors, or the storytelling etc. is, there isn’t a perfect film. And honestly with our project When a Stranger Knocks I haven’t received much critical reception. I appreciate that the viewers can see what it is, see past the flaws and love the storytelling and the beautiful shots of the film. We know there will be negative critiques and that’s fine. All I have to say is, WE DID IT! And we are proud of it. You have to start somewhere and if this is our starting point, I am so excited to see where we go.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I am hoping that the screenplay I mentioned earlier that Javan had written years ago is going to be a reality soon. I know Javan has other projects, but this one is my focus.


What got you into acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I started acting in church. Plays that we would do for outreaches and holiday seasons. In high school, I took drama and fell in love with the making of any scene and dialogue your reality, then sharing it with everyone watching.


My formal training started in high school drama class, I have taken workshops with AnnMarie Crouch and Darla Birganti Kain, Lance Nichols, CD Ryan Glorioso and I have my current coach and acting mentor Gary Grubbs.


Of late, you've also picked up producing, as with When a Stranger Knocks - so what prompted that move behind the camera?


I think I kind of answered this in a few of the previous questions. However, I’ll say it real quick… I’m not talented in writing, creating a story and telling a story in that aspect. I do love to make things happen. I love to help others I truly believe in to achieve their dreams and their goals. That is what prompted me to move behind the camera.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to When a Stranger Knocks, in whatever position?


Lots of local indie projects. I had one line in Anchorman 2, small role as punk girl in Let's Be Cops (scenes were cut), VH1's Single Ladies 1 episode, NCIS New Orleans 1 episode, #KillerPost 1 episode, 3-Headed Shark Attack, Lady Ballers, a few concept promo shoots and lots of commercials.  


How would you describe yourself as an actress, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?


I’m a work in progress. I’ve always said, Good actors aren’t acting. We find in us, the REAL moment, feeling, emotion and reaction from our lives, relive them to share with you. Making a character come to life by creating their story from beginning to end so that I know the mannerisms, nuances, things that make them tick, things that make them irritated, things they love, things they hate and can deliver to the audience the truth of that person and the reality of who they are.


Actresses (and indeed actors) who inspire you?


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Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp. These 2 become 100% the character they play. I don’t see them in any film. I see who they have become. Others: Dijmon Housou, Travis Fimmel, Michelle Yeoh, Zoe Saldana and Christopher Waltz.


Your favourite movies?


The Game, The Kid, Secret Life of Walter Mittey, Gangster Squad, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adventures of Power.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


I always find something good in everything, so I don't feel that I have any that I can say I really deplore.


Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?


Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


As in any film, The Crew is theback bone, we could not have done it without you! I hope that I was able to express the amount of gratitude and love I have for everyone involved. Even the beautiful lady, Heather Madison, that provided our meals in the cabin. I don't feel as if there is a person more important than the other, although some roles are more demanding or more in the limelight. I truly appreciate every breath and moment everyone poured into this with Javan and me. We became a family and we did this together. I believe it's something we can all be proud of. I also want to give a shout-out and a moment of gratitude to our investors and sponsors. We are a cohesive unit and we couldn't have done it without everyone involved. EXTRA honorable mention to John Loftis, Orlando Street, Drew and Teresa Higgs.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

Thanks for watching !!!



In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.


There's No Such Thing as Zombies
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
Debra Lamb and Lynn Lowry


directed by
Eddie Bammeke

written by
Michael Haberfelner

produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke


now streaming at


Amazon UK





Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from