The 2004 graduate of Toronto Film School’s Film Production program was part of last year’s Oscar-winning VFX team behind Sam Mendes’ real-time First World War-era epic, 1917. This year, the artist collective he worked with on The One and Only Ivan has garnered another Oscar nomination in the same category at the upcoming 93rd Academy Awards.
During the making of the Disney fantasy film – based on Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Newbery Medal-winning children’s novel about a silverback gorilla – the Bengaluru, India-based Rao worked as the VFX Central Production Manager for MPC Film.
A global leader in VFX renowned for adding visual wonder to films, MPC Film brought together 500 artists from its studios in London, Montreal and Bangalore to bring to life The One and Only Ivan’s nine primary characters: Ivan the Gorilla, Bob the dog, Ruby the baby elephant, Frankie the seal, Murphy the rabbit, Snickers the poodle, Henrietta the chicken and Thelma the parrot, as well as the film’s photo-realistic CG environments and digital set extensions.
“MPC Film were invited to be part of the filmmaking process from Day 1, helping to conceive a custom production workflow which would enable director Thea Sharrock to realize a story predominantly led by animals, with large passages of script absent of human performers,” MPC representatives said in a statement, noting that their team crafted 1055 shots for the movie.
The film, which is also nominated for Best Special Effects at the upcoming 74th BAFTA Awards, is hardly the only Oscar contender on Rao’s impressive list of credits.
In the 17 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 a recent interview with Toronto Film School.
“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.”
The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, April 25 at 8 p.m.