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“Sorry about the mess; I’m getting ready to move,” she says, gesturing to the boxes. “But this clutter drives me crazy because I’m such a Virgo!” Opting for a neater venue, Cassavetes folds herself into a shaded Adirondack chair by her pool and pulls her knees to her chest, her pink toenails, each painted with a small rainbow, coming into view, as well as an orchid tattoo.
It’s easy to imagine Cassavetes, now 39, as a rebellious 13-year-old, grounded by her father, the late filmmaker John Cassavetes, for sneaking out to punk rock clubs. It was that punishment that led to her discovery on TV of Z Channel, the now-defunct Los Angeles-based cable station that aired cult films, which is the subject of her new documentary, “Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession,” which premieres May 9 on the Independent Film Channel. (It screened last year at both the Toronto and Cannes film festivals.)
“My dad never knew it wasn’t punishment at all because I was happy to sit in my room and discover all these amazing films,” she says, adding that her appreciation of seminal, yet little-seen works like Oliver Stone’s “Salvador” and Michael Cimino’s “Heaven’s Gate” did not inspire her to become a filmmaker. At least, not right away. Instead, she took the musical road, forming a hard-core rock band called Shrine, and then began directing her own music videos. That led to directing other bands’ videos, then on to making short films. “Z Channel” is her first feature-length film.
While she acknowledges her parents’ legacy (mom is actress Gena Rowlands, and when asked what her favorite Cassavetes film is, she lists six, then finally relents, “Just say I’m a fan.”), Cassavetes doesn’t see her current vocation as predestined.