Kevin Derek, founder of the Irvine International Film Festival, poses for a portrait at Edwards Westpark 8 movie theater in Irvine. For the last two years, the Irvine International Film Festival has been held there, but starting this season will be hosted at the Laguna Hills Mall Cinemas in January. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot / December 30, 2013)

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Admit it. At some point in your life, you've done an impression of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa wailing, "Adria-a-a-a-a-a-an!"

And now, thanks to Irvine resident Kevin Derek, you'll get to meet the man who directed that iconic moment. While writer-star Stallone may dominate most people's memory of "Rocky," it was actually director John G. Avildsen who picked up the Oscar for that 1976 classic — and he'll be a guest of honor at this month's Irvine International Film Festival, which will bestow on him its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Derek, who directed the documentary "Empty Hand: The Real Karate Kids" and has "The Real Miyagi" in the works, created a packed program for the third annual Irvine festival — which, despite its name, will actually take place at the Laguna Hills Mall Cinemas. With opening night approaching, Derek joined the Daily Pilot in an email interview:

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Last year, the Irvine International Film Festival showed nine short films that were nominated for Oscars. You have several films on the program this year that have been shortlisted. Are you eagerly anticipating the nominations on Jan. 16?

This year, we have nine as well, and a doc we screened last year, "Jujitsu-ing Reality," is also on the Oscars' short list. And, in fact, the same day that the Oscars are being announced, we are screening five short documentaries and one feature doc, "The Act of Killing," that we hope will be on that list.

Will you celebrate at the festival if your films score a lot of nominations?

Absolutely! Our award show lands on the same day as the Oscar announcement. Perfect timing.

Tell the truth. Before you started running your film festival, had you ever seen those shorts that get nominated for the Oscar?

Yes, but not as much as I have seen since I've been running the festival. There aren't that many places in O.C. that you can go to see short docs. You might get lucky and see one or two Oscar-caliber at a festival, but to see nine in one festival — that doesn't happen that often. We want to be known for showing quality films.

All right, so which quality short films should I find time to see this year?

I would have to say all of our short-list selections are top notch!

Tell me about your first experience with film festivals. What was the first one you attended?

To be honest, it's been so long that I don't remember the year. But the first one I attended was the LA Film Fest, I would say 12 years ago. But the most memorable ones were Sundance and Doc NYC.

What was memorable about those?

The atmosphere, surroundings, meeting and hanging out with filmmakers.

Which filmmakers did you get to meet?

We usually go with a group of friends. Not all the filmmakers there are well-known. You run into producers, editors, cinematographers, etc., that all share the same common goal.

What goal is that, at least as far as a film festival goes?

Their goal is to be recognized for the countless hours they spent on the film, to be accepted to a prestigious festival.