Chile spans 38 latitudes and is one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world, offering filmmakers an unparalleled variety of locations from the world's driest desert to Patagonian glaciers and fjords, as well as Andean peaks, temperate rainforest, Mediterranean-like valleys, and thousands of miles of rugged coastline.
The country is only around 220 miles at its widest point, so getting from one contrasting destination to the next can be done in about two hours hours by plane -- a major benefit for filmmakers who need a variety of locations. Chile is clean, economically and politically sound, boasts the lowest level of corruption in Latin America and is considered the safest country in Latin America.
It is also one of only two Latin America countries that accepts the ATA Carnet, and the country is the continent's leader in high-quality equipment rental and technology, with a dozen production companies that employ a significant pool of highly qualified producers and technicians (including post-production).
The Chilean government recently dropped the reciprocity fee for United States citizens, and most countries do not require a visa to enter. Many international production companies shoot in Chile for its "reverse" seasons (winter from June - October and summer from December - March), and because the country shares the same general time zone as EST.
Chilean films have received much acclaim abroad, both in the press and the international festival circuit. The Maid (2009), from director Sebastian Silva, won accolades including two Jury Prizes at Sundance. Pablo Larraín’s 2012 film No brought the Chilean film industry back into the spotlight when it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. And most recently, Sebastian Lelio’s Gloria took home the Jury Prize from the Berlin Film Festival as well the Best Actress Award for its star, Paulina García.
Chile recently signed legislation with domestic theaters to guarantee full distribution of Chilean films throughout the country and for a minimum time period, to help shore up domestic support for its filmmaking industry.
Chile produces TV commercials for some renowned brands, for products including cars, clothing, soft drinks and spirits, technology, foodstuffs and luxury accessories.
Commercial campaigns have included Cadbury’s Wispa on top of a mountain in Chile from British production company 2AM, while Torres del Paine National Park was used to film an advert for the Volkswagen Passat and international production company RSA filmed a commercial for Jaguar’s new F-Type sports car featuring Lana Del Rey and Damian Lewis and set in the vast Atacama desert.
Alongside commercials, some prominent international films have been set in Chile, including the most recent major Hollywood production The 33, about the story of Chilean miners who survived for two months at the bottom of a collapsed mine shaft. The film features performances by Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne and Martin Sheen. Other recent productions include Magic Magic and Crystal Fairy, both starring the American actor Michael Cera, the James Bond film Quantum of Solace and Simon West's feature Salty, also with Antonio Banderas.
In addition Chile has been the base for international television productions - for example, the American cable network HBO utilised local producers, directors and actors for the HBO Latino channel’s action series: Prófugos (Fugitives).
The government-run Film Commission Chile can assist filmmakers by helping them to make the necessary connections to obtain permits for locations and facilities (such as Santiago's city hall or permission from the National Forest Association to shoot in the protected forest areas).
Providing that arrangements have been properly made in advance, public buildings can often be used for filming for free. Usually it is also necessary to receive approval from an institution such as the National Audiovisual Arts & Industry Council. Town halls or regional government offices can issue permits for the use of plazas, streets and public spaces. Highways are the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure which will authorize permits for shooting.
In order to make things as simple as possible, it is often useful to enlist a local production company to assist you with arranging filming permits if shoots are occurring in a number of different locations.
As stated on the Chilean Film Commission’s website, visas are not required for passport holders of the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Spain, the United States, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, the Netherlands, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Morocco, Mexico, Nicaragua, Norway, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, United States (as of February 2014), Uruguay and Venezuela.
There is, however, a reciprocity tax required from citizens from the following countries:
• Australia US $117
• Mexico US $23
• Albania US $30
• Canada US $132
• USA - No fee (as of February 2014)
Citizens from other countries must contact their local Chilean consulate in advance.
The Home Office (or Ministry of Interior) offers a range of work permits. The most common permits for the film industry are visa TA-4 for artists for a stay of 30 days or less, and visa TE-8 for professionals and technicians. There is also the potential to extend these visas beyond 30 days if necessary.
Chile has extremely qualified technical personnel for all areas related to the production process: direction and camera assistants, art and photography directors, sound technicians, props, wardrobe and makeup artists.
Art department and set construction is very strong, and professionals within the industry have gained experience from many complex sets produced for large-scale productions. Chile offers first-class post-production facilities, laboratories and services at a low cost. Sound stages in Chile tend to be mostly used for TV production, and do tend to be small. Additionally, the country has a significant pool of bilingual producers, technicians, all of which help visiting filmmakers to realize their ideas.
Austrian post-production companies have established an exemplary international reputation. Facilities with state-of-the art hardware and software have found as much recognition as have the highly-skilled Austrian film, sound editors and 3D specialists.
Mountains, rainforests, beaches, valleys, lakes, deserts, glaciers, ski-resorts, modern cities, historic villages and even ancient landmarks; you name it and Chile has it.
There are many stunning cities in Chile. The capital, Santiago, was founded in 1541 and is steeped in colonial history and 19th century buildings. The city has now become a modern metropolis, including an extensive public transportation infrastructure, several universities, shopping centres and skyscrapers (including the Gran Torre Santiago, the tallest building in Latin America). From the city you can also see the Andes mountains.
Valparaíso is one of Chile’s most important ports, and in recent years it has become an important cultural centre in the region. In the 19th century, the city was a key stopover for trading ships travelling between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and was therefore home to a number of wealthy European immigrants. Thus the city contains a number of stunning colonial buildings, including Latin America’s oldest stock exchange and Chile’s first public library. Viña del Mar is a coastal city which boasts long white sandy beaches and is a picturesque tourist hot spot.
As already mentioned, the Atacama desert has proved to be a major draw for international filmmakers. The Atacama is the driest desert in the world, and at 41,000 sq miles, it contains a variety of stunning natural features, including composed salt lakes, sand dunes and lava flows. There are also interesting man-made structures in the desert, including the UNESCO world heritage site, the Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works, as well as two observatories, the La Silla Observatory and the Paranal Observatory.
The Andes mountains in northern Chile offers yet more amazing filming locations; there are imposing mountain faces, glaciers, internationally renowned ski resorts and lush national parks (the most famous being Conguillío National Park).
The country is home to areas of volcanic and geothermal activity, including the El Tatio Geysers and the Llaima and Chaitén volcanoes, and the conical Villarrica Volcano in the resort town Pucón. Easter Island, famous for its ancient monumental statues, is also a part of Chile, as well as Robinson Crusoe Island, so-named for the Alexander Selkirk who was a castaway on the island in the 18th century and the inspiration for the famous novel. Chile's second-largest island, Chiloé, has fairytale landscapes of green rolling hills and shingled homes on stilts, and centuries-old Jesuit churches considered unique in the world and UNESCO Heritage Sites.
Alongside all this, the country has opposite seasons to the northern hemisphere – so when it’s winter in the northern hemisphere, it’s summer in Chile - which can help aid shooting schedules.
Chile has a diverse range of climatic conditions and microclimates. The northern desert is the world's driest and sees very little rainfall during the year. When it does rain, it is usually from Dec. to Feb. during what is called the "Bolivian Winter."
The desert's high altitude means that days can be warm and evenings cool to frigid. The coastal desert area experiences plenty of fog year-round. The Andes run along Chile's eastern border, in the north the climate is typical of mountain areas with thin air, light rainfall and permanent snow and ice on the highest peaks, whilst in the southern Andes, rain and snowfall is heavier and can occur at much lower altitudes.
Central lowland areas of Chile have warm, dry summers (Nov-Mar) and mild winters with average rainfall. The southern part of Chile has a changeable cool, wet climate. The Patagonia region has a very highly changeable weather pattern that can bring cold weather and even rain and snow during the summer, with very strong wind from November to March
Light clothes are needed for the northern and central areas during the spring and summer, with warmer wear for winter -- especially in the desert north. Much warmer clothing is needed for trips to the south, especially during winter and up into the Andes. Rainwear is advisable at any time when visiting the south or going to central areas during winter months (May-Sep).
Chile boasts the most developed technology infrastructure in Latin America and has a wide range of production equipment on offer. Chile is one of only two South American countries with a Russian Arm, and the country possesses equipment such as Fisher and Panther dollies, Technocrane, helicopter mounts and a Milo motion control rig.
Chile rents all of the newest digital cameras and optics, including complete factory sets of Hawk V-Lite 2X squeeze anamorphic, Cooke 5/i, S4/i, Master, Ultra and Optimo lenses, and Alexa XT Plus, Studio and M cameras. Wireless accessories and the most sophisticated lighting equipment such as SoftSun and Lighting Strikes is available, as well as a significant pool of bilingual producers, technicians and post-production facilities. Additional services include transport, generators, data wrangler and video assist, sound stages, and warehouse facilities that are open 24/7, all easily accessed from any point in the city. Rental houses in Chile offer the latest equipment at affordable costs, which are often much lower than international rates.
Top Chilean production companies include Altana Films and Labhouse.