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Taylor Kitsch, hungry for creative control, directs a new short film

Taylor Kitsch attends the New York premiere of
Taylor Kitsch attends the New York premiere of "The Normal Heart" at Ziegfeld Theater on May 12, 2014 in New York City.
Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

Taylor Kitsch — the shaggy-haired, hunky actor who, at 33 years old, has already generated a career of questionable highs and lows — has a new project, a short film that he hopes will take your mind off his recent big-screen flops.

You may know Kitsch, if you know him at all, as Tim Riggins on the critically acclaimed but belatedly watched TV show "Friday Night Lights."

Or if you're a fan of sci-fi films, you may recall him from two spectacular 2012 box office bombs: "Battleship" and "John Carter." Both films cost well over $200 million to make and tens of millions more to market, but sold only a fraction of that amount in tickets. When they failed, their studios — Universal and Disney respectively — had to take embarrassing and costly write-downs.

Recently, Kitsch has gone smaller and more highbrow with his screen work, appearing alongside Mark Ruffalo in the HBO adaptation of Larry Kramer's Pulitzer Prize-winning AIDS drama "The Normal Heart."

Now Kitsch has gone shorter. He's also gone behind the camera.

He wrote, directed, produced and stars in the short film "Pieces," which premieres at the Palm Springs Int'l ShortFest this weekend. It's about a poker player, played by Kitsch, who can't pay his gambling debts and gets mixed up in drug running as a result.

Kitsch tells KPCC that he made the movie — which he self-funded — for a few reasons. One big one was creative control.

"I just wanted the final call on every front," Kitsch said. "And it was the kind of thing of like, if it turns out crappy, I'll take it, you know? It's on me. "

When asked if it was a reaction to not having much control over how "Battleship" or "John Carter" turned out, he said:

"It's that collaboration — that process — that's more and more rare. The bigger the budget, it feels like there's more hands on deck. I still had an amazing experience on both those films, it's just unfortunate in the end result. Unfortunately, box office says if it's a good movie in so many ways."

Kitsch says the 32-minute "Pieces" is a proof of concept for a feature-length film he's writing — and has already raised $5 million to make. When asked if he wanted to prove to possible financiers that he's more than an actor, Kitsch said:

"I hope I'm not just saying I'm not just a stupid actor."

Kitsch says that premiering his short at the Palm Springs Int'l ShortFest as opposed to Sundance or the Toronto International Film Festival, bigger venues where shorts are featured, "Feels right — bigger's not always better."

Kitsch's "Pieces" screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 21, at Camelot Theatres, Palm Springs.