AUBURN — Australian filmmaker Charles Olsen was making his first trip to Maine. He stopped at a lighthouse and took a bunch of photos. He ate local food and visited some tourist spots.

None of it, though, prepared him for the sight of Auburn’s Foss Mansion, where the Emerge Film Festival kicked off Thursday afternoon.

“When we first pulled up, I thought it was the White House,” Olsen said. “It’s just amazing.”

It was a popular opinion. As arriving filmmakers mingled with film-goers inside the stately house, few could ignore a setting that felt wildly appropriate.

“It’s pretty great,” said 23-year-old Fionna Howes.

Howes studied filmmaking at Ithaca College. She came to Auburn from New Hampshire to take in the festival and perhaps learn a few things and meet some like-minded souls.

“I’ve seen a couple of the filmmakers,” Howes said, “but I haven’t talked to any of them yet.”

There was plenty of time. The festival lasts all weekend and it was just getting started. There was no sense of hurry among the arriving guests. Many sat in the numerous rooms of the sprawling mansion, drinking beer and cider and trying to decide which festival events to attend.

“There isn’t a single one on the schedule that I wouldn’t want to see,” said Carol Mashaw of Lewiston. “It’s hard to pick and choose.”

Mashaw is a member of the Woman’s Literary Union, so she’s no stranger to Foss Mansion at 19 Elm St. The mansion is owned by the WLU. Still, she appreciated the fact that so many people were seeing it for the first time.

“It’s such a gem,” Mashaw said. “It needs to be shared.”

In a nearby chair, Barbara Annear was enjoying a Stella Artois beer and taking in the ambiance of the mansion.

“It’s perfect,” she said. “Absolutely perfect.”

An hour after the meet-and-greet got underway, new guests were arriving in growing numbers. Many stood in the driveway for a few minutes, taking in the grand house before stepping inside.

“People are walking by and looking up as if to say, ‘Am I in the right place?'” said volunteer Courtney Bell. “I keep waving them over. It’s been fun. Right at 5 o’clock, people started rolling in.”

The evening included a screening of “Neptune,” the story of an orphan girl obsessed by the disappearance of a classmate on an island off the coast of Maine.

More than a few people Thursday were anticipating the Saturday screening of “In the Dark,” a film that follows a paranormal specialist researching strange happenings in a Brooklyn home.

Talking about it in the halls of Foss Mansion only added to the anticipation.

“There’s definitely some of that spookiness going on here,” Bell said.

Emerge Film Festival

Friday’s highlights

• Several features and short films, including a film block by emerging filmmakers, will be shown between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at Schaeffer Theatre and Olin Arts Center on the campus of Bates College, Lewiston.

• Lighting Master Class, 1:30 p.m., The Dolard and Priscilla Gendron Franco Center, 46 Cedar St., Lewiston

• Emerge Kids programming — the animated feature film “Snowtime!” plus three shorts will be shown at 4 p.m. at Olin Arts Center. It will be repeated Saturday morning.

• Director’s cut of “One Team: The Story of the Lewiston High School Blue Devils,” 8 p.m., The Dolard and Priscilla Gendron Franco Center, Lewiston. SOLD OUT. A second showing is at 10 a.m. Sunday at Lewiston-Auburn Community Little Theatre, 30 Academy St., Auburn.

• One Community After-Party, 10:30 p.m., The Dolard and Priscilla Gendron Franco Center, Lewiston. Must have pass or ticket to Friday’s screening of “One Team” to attend.

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