Torres del Paine National Park - Southern Chile
The beauty of filming within the Torres del Paine (TDP) park and adjacent territories is that there is so much to be had in such a small area. Designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, TDP offers spectacular granite peaks, waterfalls, rivers, lakes and raging rapids, glaciers, wild and rugged landscapes, a plethora of Andean flora, waterfowl and wildlife - condors, rhea, guanaco, fox, pumas -- all accessible within a relatively short distance of one another. Logistically, TDP is highly user-friendly, which reduces costs and production time.
A direct flight from Santiago gets you to Punta Arenas, from where a van takes you north to Puerto Natales, the jump-off town to TDP. Lodging within TDP is available, but park lodges are expensive and require advance reservations. Just outside the park are several rudimentary options, allowing park access at a more affordable cost. Large, production-type vans are in short supply and must be rented from an outfit that uses them to shuttle tourists in the area. Small, portable generators can be rented cheaply as a power backup for charging batteries and devices.
Over the years, I have nutured solid contacts at the highest levels within CONAF (Corporación Nacional Forestal) which controls the park system and issues film permits. These key people make it possible to fast-track permits at the lowest possible cost, and provide access to areas and services not readily available to most film teams.
Regardless of size and scope of project, a permit is required within TDP boundaries. Fees depend on the end use of imagery obtained, from non-profit documentaries to large-scale productions. From years of working together, and based on the mutual trust thus generated, CONAF can be very accomodating in terms of fees and number of shooting days allowed under a permit. An application must be submitted, but this is routine and quick approval at lowest cost with extra free shooting days is virtually guaranteed.
Drone technology and use is so new that regulations are overly strict in special areas, and totally prohibited within TDP. However, drones can be freely used on private property adjacent TDP and elsewhere. Depending on what one wants to film we can find a way.
Customs procedures vary widely from country to country. Fortunately, the Chileans are reasonable people willing to help and glad that one choses their country to show to the world. Now that recording gear has been reduced greatly in size, it readily passes for personal use. In rare cases where large amounts of gear are necessary, Chile accepts international carnets for bringing in whatever is needed. So, the basic procedure is to enter as a tourist and bring in photographic or video-recording gear for "personal" use.
INTERNET AND WIFI
Internet access is spreading rapidly throught Chilean Patagonia, but there are still dead zones. However, lodges and businesses allow travelers to use their connections, so it amounts to an inconvenience at times, but no crisis.
In the last decade the puma population of TDP has increased dramatically for several reasons. As a result they are more visible and easier to find, but there are risks and restrictions involved. Despite increased controls to protect both pumas and visitors, encounters now are also virtually guaranteed. TDP park ranger José Vargas Sandoval - alias Wayaja - is the foremost puma expert in the region. With special advance arrangement he will accompany the film team and find cats.
For more detailed info please contact me with the basic goals and needs of your production, and we'll take it from there.
Credit: Jaako Viktor Slotte