Jake Perlman
August 08, 2014 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Setting the Scene
A Michigan parking lot was used as a stand-in for a car dealership, and a fire was lit on set so the actors could picture the so-called firenado. ”It’s a real phenomenon,” says Quale. ”I found a VHS video [of one] that we brought to the VFX team and said, ‘We need to match this exactly.”’

No Church, No Problem
The script called for the characters to attempt to ride out the storm in a nearby church. But when scouting locations, Quale couldn’t find one close enough to a parking lot. The steeple was added digitally along with those trees (and millions of individually blowing leaves).

Building Blocks
Quale used animation to play around with the placement of the tornadoes and the potential projectiles in the characters’ paths. After trying out a couple of variations, he decided that ”cars flipped in the air seemed the most dynamic.”

Feel the Burn
With the firenado’s final rendering in place, the entire image was darkened with a ”haze effect” to represent rain. To make the blaze look realistic, Quale also added a glow to the front of the church and sidewalk and whipped those digital trees into a funnel-cloud-fueled frenzy.

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