SANTIAGO (Reuters) - When the creators of an elaborate 2013 Cadillac commercial began to scout for shooting locations three years ago, they began in Argentina, where varied landscapes and creative talent had long attracted ad producers.
But when it came time to import the equipment needed for the three-minute spot, they collided head-on with the country's byzantine import regulations. Argentina demanded hefty deposits on all vehicles, cameras, and lights, and producers were unsure when - or even if - their imports would make it through customs.
The solution? Move to Chile.
"Now, we're not filming many projects in Argentina. Many of our clients don't want to go back there," said Cristobal Sotomayor, a partner for Buenos Aires-based Goodgate Films, which produced the spot.
According to producers and executives, Sotomayor's experience is far from unique.
Repelled by onerous tariffs, economic malaise and unorthodox policymaking, advertising producers are souring on Argentina, where protectionist policies have expanded significantly in recent years.
Observers say even creative industries that have long been a point of pride in a country known for tango and theater are not immune.
The shift is also a vote of confidence for neighboring Chile, where producers can import merchandise quickly without tariffs, and where the government is widely considered predictable.
Chile ranked 41 on the World Bank's 2015 Ease of Doing Business Index, while Argentina came in at 124, alongside countries like Mozambique and Guyana.
"Whoever is the next president here (in Chile), it doesn't really matter, because the morning after the election, the country will keep working," said Felipe Noguiera, a Santiago-based production head for Argentina's Jacaranda Films.
Although statistics are sparse, executives or producers at four international production firms and Chile's major film equipment contractor told Reuters that foreign shoots are on the rise in Chile, and that their business has far exceeded expectations in Santiago in the last four years.
During that time, at least four Buenos Aires-based production companies have opened offices or formed alliances in the Chilean capital, citing a slowing Argentine industry.
Makers of car commercials in particular have flocked to Chile. In addition to Cadillac, companies including Toyota, Subaru, Jaguar Land Rover, Peugeot, Nissan, and Mercedes Benz, have shot ads in the nation in the last three years.
"What has happened is that Argentina lost credibility," said Sotomayor.
Joyce Zylberberg, the president of Chile's government-run Film Commission, said the shift has also helped cultivate a creative Renaissance in Chile, where directors like Pablo Larrain and Andres Wood have made an impact internationally in recent years.
But not everyone is as sanguine about the national film scene.
Producers say a lack of creative talent in Chile relative to its neighbor still forces them to import Argentine directors.
Argentine film-makers themselves insist that short-term economic troubles will not overshadow their prospects in the long-term.
"We Argentines know crisis," said Ernesto Molino, a Cannes award-winning production designer from Buenos Aires.
"And it's the crises, of course, not the good times, that breed creativity."
Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and W Simon