Jen D'Angelo is a self-proclaimed superfan of the original 'Hocus Pocus.'
She says writing the sequel and being on set during filming was a dream come true.
D'Angelo shares her career journey and the pressure she felt to write a sequel fans would love.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jen D'Angelo, who wrote "Hocus Pocus 2." It has been edited for length and clarity.
I knew I wanted to be a writer really early on.
When I was 10, I was left home alone for a few hours and I snagged my older brother's VHS tape of "Scream." It scared me so much, but I immediately wanted to write my own scary story.
My favorite holiday is Halloween, and every year I watched "Hocus Pocus" and wrote a Halloween story. I just loved writing scary ghost stories.
I worked on my writing by creating sketches for my school, and then went on to study screenwriting at Northwestern University (which has a really incredible screenwriting program). I did comedy and improv on the side.
Right after college I moved to Los Angeles and started working assistant jobs in entertainment. I was writing all the time and performing a bunch at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, the famed improv theatre founded by Amy Poehler.
My first TV writing gig came out of nowhere
My first TV writing job was on season five of "Cougar Town." I was 24, and I had been working as an intern at a production company — so I was so surprised and excited when my agent said they'd sent my stuff over to the show and I landed a meeting. That job really came out of nowhere and it was a dream come true.
That's when my TV writing career took off. I worked on a few different shows, but then I wanted to pivot into writing features. I wrote a feature sample on the side that was getting passed around, which is how Disney got to know me.
When they revisited "Hocus Pocus" to make a sequel, they reached out to my agent to set up a meeting with me. When my agent forwarded me the email, I could not respond fast enough. I couldn't wait to talk to them about this movie I'd grown up with and my ideas for how we could continue the story.
My writing process is pretty straightforward
I don't really have much of a process when it comes to writing. I pretty much just sit down and say, "Alright, time to write."
I wrote a big chunk of "Hocus Pocus 2" at a coffee shop near my house in LA. The first day after I was officially hired to write the script, the first thing I wrote was "EXTERIOR: SALEM, 1600s." I got chills — I couldn't believe I was really writing "Hocus Pocus 2" in my little neighborhood coffee shop.
It was so exciting. I remember I took a picture of my computer with that opening line, but then got embarrassed that I was doing that.
We didn't know if the original cast would sign on
My first question when I got the job was whether the original Sanderson sisters were returning, because to me, they are the movie. Disney told me they weren't officially signed on but it seemed promising — if we got the right script in front of them.
We didn't know if we'd only get them back in a cameo capacity or if we could get them for the whole movie, so it was really up in the air.
I decided to swing for the fences — I wrote the version of "Hocus Pocus 2" that I would want to see, with the original Sanderson Sisters as the main antagonists again. I pitched that version and hoped for the best.
I worked on the script with just Disney for a while, and then we got Lynn Harris, the producer, on-board.
After that, we sent the script to Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, and they signed on to be in the movie. I was so thrilled.
Being on set during the filming of "Hocus Pocus 2" was so thrilling
Once the script was finalized and filming began, I was on set in Providence, Rhode Island for the entire film.
Sometimes I would just be hanging out and watching — other times, something might've happened at a location, so I'd be there to rewrite part of the story to take place somewhere else.
I really loved every aspect of being on set with the production. As a fan, it was truly amazing to see the Sanderson Sisters in costume on set for the first time.
I wanted to give the sequel that same strong emotional core that the original had
In keeping with the original, I wanted to keep that surprising emotional element in this version. And it all comes back to the Sanderson sisters.
I was really drawn to the theme of sisterhood: I remember all of these fights that I got into with my friends in high school over little misunderstandings because we didn't have the vocabulary to articulate our emotions.
Everything feels so much heavier than it is at that age. I felt like it was such ripe territory to bring the Sanderson sisters into, to explore their sisterhood, but also explore what other types of sisterhood could be.
I hope people feel my love for the original "Hocus Pocus"
Writing a sequel to a film that I and so many others love definitely put the pressure on: I didn't want to let fans down. But getting the opportunity to write the next chapter has been an absolute dream come true.
After watching the movie, I hope people walk away from it wanting to call their friends and tell them how much they love them.
I hope people respond to the main theme of friendship: friends we can lean on and who make us stronger are really, really important.
If you work in Hollywood and would like to share your story, email Eboni Boykin-Patterson at email@example.com.
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