The most frugal director in the world? Meet Miguel Arteta

Bravo to film director Miguel Arteta for living remarkably downscale by show business standards. Heck, by the standards of many regular folks.

Perhaps we can all learn about fiscal restraint from him. The way he manages his art and his money makes me pine for my stamp-sized apartment in Hell's Kitchen.

Let me explain. Arteta, 44, has directed the likes of Jennifer Aniston in "The Good Girl" and now Michael Cera in "Youth in Revolt," opening Friday.

His movies have been successful in indie circles and he's already shot another one, "Cedar Rapids," due out next year. Surely he must be embracing the Hollywood life in digs befitting a respected filmmaker. Right?

"I live in a room this size," he told WalletPop recently as we surveyed his Toronto hotel suite. Some film types have walk-in closets bigger than this.

Surely you jest, Director Sir.

"No," he answered. "This is it."

Arteta said he was operating on a modest budget long before the economy dropped faster than a stuntman in a Western. Good thing, too, because he didn't direct a movie for six years before "Youth in Revolt."

His home in Los Angeles is a 300-square-foot guest house above a two-car garage. That could be the kind of setup you have if you're a wannabe screenwriter who recently dropped out of film school and got cut off from Daddy's trust fund. Not for an established talent whose last movie, the said "Good Girl," grossed $14 million after he made it for $5 million.

We were afraid to ask if he pays for basic cable.

"I kept overhead low so I didn't have to make a movie I didn't want to make," he explained. "Listen, I have a nice life. I eat out all the time. But I just keep overhead low so I can have a nice life."

Living within means or even below to maintain security and integrity in a high-risk medium should be a no-brainer strategy. Hollywood hubris makes it almost seem quaint.

Arteta said he wanted to sell out for the money. The right script didn't come his way until "Revolt," in which the baby-faced Cera ("Superbad") morphs into Jean-Paul Belmondo's "Breathless" bad boy to win the girl and lose his virginity.

"It's the perfect match of material and star," Arteta said. The film's prospects appear bright. Cera is popular. "Revolt" has mainstream backing in the Weinstein Company. Some early reviews have been positive. Perhaps a habitat upgrade is in Arteta's future?

"It'd be nice to have commercial success," he said.
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