Originating in metropoles in the Global North, the creative cities model has increasingly been replicated in locations around the globe. However, betting on the creative industries to reinvigorate stagnant economies might not be a solution compatible with every context. To analyse this issue, this article presents the case of the small Brazilian city of Cabaceiras, which was the target of a project aimed at revitalizing its economy through film and tourism in 2007. Based on 25 interviews with residents and policy makers, we examine whether the initiative was, in their view, successful in stimulating a creative hub. We argue that the creative cities model has not yet proven feasible in Cabaceiras due to financial and infrastructural challenges that the city experiences, its positioning outside of Brazil’s cultural and creative centres and the uncertainties of investing in the audiovisual sector in the country.