Argentina has one of the most dynamic and creative production businesses in Latin America. This, combined with relatively low productions costs, explains why it has become a centre of excellence for telenovela production and for centralised production of format-based entertainment shows. Numerous versions of Endemol’s primetime show Wipeout, for example, have been made in Argentina for export to foreign markets.
The country is also blessed with stunning locations and diverse architecture, making Argentina a popular destination for film and commercials producers. Its size helps open up a plethora of possibilities for filming, not only amazing landscapes like the glacier Perito Moreno located in Calafate or the Falls of Iguazú, but also different climates and architecture.
Crew and technicians are smart and resourceful, with some observers saying that this has come about because they are used to making do during the (many) economic downturns.
In terms of casting, many Argentines are of European descent. This, combined with indigenous populations and new waves of immigration from Asia, make for a diverse population.
The country’s capital, Buenos Aires, is also the industry’s capital. As for its professional credentials, it is also renowned for its bars, cafes, restaurants and superb nightlife.
Argentina is long-established as an international hub for filming commercials, but broader international productions have been hampered by the lack of a national filming incentive. Buenos Aires has become a popular double for European cities and the country’s warm weather is conveniently reliable during the northern hemisphere’s winter months.
Netflix’s period movie Operation Finale is among the biggest international films to have shot recently in Argentina. The movie was made entirely in the country to tell the true story of the post-war manhunt instigated by Israel’s Mossad intelligence service to bring Nazi Adolf Eichmann to justice, with producers recreating some of the Israeli story settings locally.
Director Chris Weitz and his production team spent six months scouting locations for the 10-week shoot. “The main locations were located in three main areas,” says Mariano Cukar, the film’s supervising location manager, “Buenos Aires’ metropolitan area, Bariloche in Argentina’s Patagonia region and a small town called Olivera located 130 kilometres from the capital city for the Eichmann house.”
Numerous changes were made to the locations to make them convincing as story settings in central Europe, Israel and period Argentina. “We had important art department interventions on almost all the locations to match Buenos Aires in 1960, but probably the most important changes were made to match Israel,” Cukar says. “International producers have always appreciated the quality of Argentinian crews and we have available here some of the latest equipment,” he continues. “For Operation Finale only a specific set of lenses had to be flown into the country. Probably the main ‘problem’ we have is the instability of our economy that makes Argentina sometimes very attractive and sometimes quite expensive. It makes it hard to establish a long-term partnership between local producers and international producers.”
Film permits for Argentina are not hard to obtain, the procedure is relatively easy and not very costly. The exception to this is filming in national parks, which can be a more bureaucratic and expensive process.
The best place to start is with the Buenos Aires city council’s film department. Here you will find an online permit management system, BASet, which enables speedy access to permits (it is said that you can ask for permits up to four days before shooting).
However, as much of the information is not accessible in any language other than Spanish, it might be handy to work together with an experienced local service company, such as Jacaranda Films.
Make sure you are also up to date on the visa requirements for Argentina, particularly if bringing equipment in on a plane.
Buenos Aires is well supplied by studios. One of the better known is Studio Baires, located at Don Torcuato. Situated on a six-acre site, Baires is fully-equipped for film, TV and commercials (and has a swimming pool beneath the floor of one of its studios). Clients down the years have included MTV, TyC, Sony, FremantleMedia and Toyota.
Buenos Aires’ production HQ is the Palermo neighbourhood, which is nicknamed Palermo Hollywood because of the number of audiovisual companies based there. These include Estudio Mayor, the studio base for producer Endemol Argentina. There are several other well-equipped studios in Buenos Aires. One is Camaras y Luces, which is discussed more in the next section.
Argentina’s coastline, prairies and mountains are spectacular elements of a diverse geography. There are also iconic sites such as Patagonia and Iguazu Falls – as well as farmlands, rivers and vineyards. The dramatic nature of Argentina’s scenery was put to good effect in Jean-Jaques Annaud’s film version of Seven Years in Tibet, Most of the shooting took place in Argentina, in the city of La Plata and in Mendoza Province.
Not to be overlooked either is the fact that capital city Buenos Aires is a cost-effective double Paris, London and New York.
If there’s a downside to Argentina it is that the country is huge – which can mean a lot of travel to find completely new locations. That said, the raw charm of Buenos Aires, combined with the quality of its crews and equipment, means a lot of work can be done without having to cover too many miles. For advice, you can go to The Buenos Aires Film Commission which has experience helping producers to scout the right locations.
Worth noting also is that Argentina can be used as a 'jumping off' point for Uruguay and Chile. While there are added considerations in terms of logistics, permitting and so on, Uruguay has become increasingly popular among producers looking for a different backdrop for their films and commercials.
Because of its strong domestic production business, Argentina is well supplied by equipment rentals and production service companies. A good example of the latter is San Telmo Productions, which posts blogs on shooting in Argentina. San Telmo can advise on all aspects of making your Argentinian shoot go smoothly.
Among kit suppliers, most firms are based in Buenos Aires – a point that needs to be considered if your shoot is a long way from the capital. Also keep in mind that Argentine rental firms prefer to deal with local companies that they already know. This, combined with the need to get permits, makes a local partner pretty much an essential for shooting here.