December 29, 2014 12:00 PM

Where’s the air-conditioning?” asks Rebel Wilson. It’s mid-July in Baton Rouge, and the cast and crew of Pitch Perfect 2 are in their final days of shooting. The temperature is a relatively balmy 86 degrees—compared with 92 a few days earlier—but it’s still sweltering inside the residential house that stands in for Bellas HQ, the home base for the movie’s singing sorority. “It’s getting hot in herrrre,” sings new cast member Hailee Steinfeld between takes. Costar Anna Kendrick quickly jumps in with another lyric from the Nelly song: “I wanna take my clothes off!”

Okay, so no one got naked. But stripped-down vocals are a constant on the set of the sequel to the 2012 surprise blockbuster, which made more than $100 million worldwide and launched its own lingo (“aca-scuse me?”) along with a thousand GIFs. This time costar Elizabeth Banks is at the helm—her first feature directing job. “Everyone was aware we were making a sequel to a film fans adored,” says Banks. Still, “she was so unintimidated by the challenges facing her,” says producer (and Banks’s husband) Max Handelman. “Every day it was, ‘Let’s go.’ ”

If only the mosquitoes hadn’t been so eager to join in. The outdoor shoots are buggy at night—the summer air is scented with a blend of sweet grass and Off!—while neighbors on the tree-lined street set up lawn chairs to watch the action. With the Bellas poised to graduate from college in this film, out next May, “it’s that mixture of excitement and angst and discovery,” says producer Paul Brooks. And, of course, plenty of harmonizing. When a major downpour hits New Orleans on the last day of shooting, it’s not long before several Bellas are belting “Singin’ in the Rain.” Later, Wilson, Kendrick, Steinfeld and Brittany Snow kill time between soggy takes with rounds of the charades-style party game Heads Up. When shooting finally wraps after midnight, there are hugs, tears and more singing (including a group chorus of “Fancy”). Says Brooks: “We tried to make a movie that’s a whole bundle of fun.”

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