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Film Production Grad Contributed to 1917’s Oscar-Winning Visual Effects

Toronto Film School alumnus Shreeharsha Rao was part of the visual effects team for 1917 that took home an Oscar from the 92nd Academy Awards.

A 2004 graduate of the Film Production Diploma program, Rao is currently the VFX Central Production Manager for MPC Film – the British visual effects and production company that lead the visual effects work on Sam Mendes’ real-time First World War-era epic.

“To execute Mendes’ groundbreaking, innovative vision required intensive planning and collaboration across multiple departments, in particular camera, production design, sound, special effects and visual effects,” MPC said in a statement of 1917, which was filmed to look like one continuous shot.

“MPC employed multiple digital techniques to make the stitches in the film invisible; from simple wipes to complex digital double takeovers. A few sequences also required significant digital-environment work…MPC also created character and vehicle animation, destruction, pyro and water effects.”

At MPC, Rao was one of approximately 600 artists who contributed to 1917, which tells the story of two British soldiers sent on a dangerous WWI mission to stop an attack that would have resulted in a massacre by the Germans.

The film – which ended up taking home the 2020 Academy Awards for Visual Effects, Cinematography, and Sound Mixing – is hardly the only Oscar contender on Rao’s impressive list of credits.

In the 15 years since he graduated from Toronto Film School, Rao has amassed a resume that many young filmmakers could only dream of, including the Academy Award-winning Roma, Oscar-nominated films The Lion King and Ad Astra, as well as Aquaman, Dumbo, Dolittle, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix, among many others.

“I dreamed of working with big movies and award-winning projects, but wasn’t sure how long it would take,” Rao said in an interview with Toronto Film School last year.

“My journey so far has had its ups and downs but, each time I look back, I feel proud of my decision to take up film studies at Toronto Film School and all the companies I have worked for.”

As the Central Production Manager for MPC Film – a global leader in VFX renowned for adding visual wonder to films – Rao works out of Bengaluru, India as part of a team that manages the scheduling of movie VFX.

“Once the shoot is completed, all of the data captured from the movie is sent to the VFX studio for our VFX artists to begin working their magic,” he said.

What that means day to day for Rao and his team is long hours dealing with MPC studios all over the world, setting the priorities for big-budget productions and allocating resources to specific projects – but he’s loved every moment of it.

“I currently handle a team of 400 people, but around 1,400 people from around the world are working on the project I’m working on for MPC,” he explained.

“The project management skill set that I use on my day-to day-work, which includes escalation, brainstorming, team handling, motivating a huge team, project planning, project execution, shoot, scripts, budgeting. All of these essential elements Toronto Film School taught me and helps me with my day-to-day working life.”


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