Historic Westville in Columbus is a living history museum portraying village life in the 1800s. "Side Trails," a Western set in 1865, is looking to be filmed there.

Credit: Mike Haskey, Ledger-Inquirer

A Western-themed TV series with Georgia roots will start filming in Columbus this summer if officials reach a final agreement.

The series is titled Side Trails and is based on the 2020 novel with the same title by Joyce Southern Bennett of Pickens County, Georgia.

If greenlighted, the series would give local folks a chance to be background actors, also known as extras.

The first days of filming would be during the last week of July at the living history museum Historic Westville, producers told the Ledger-Enquirer.

Westville president and chairman George Singer confirmed the preliminary talks and told the Ledger-Enquirer he doesn’t see a reason why filming on the property at 3557 South Lumpkin Road wouldn’t happen.

Undecided is how much money the production company, Georgia-based Blue Heron Films, would pay Westville to use the mock village with historic structures that portray life in the 1800s.

Also undecided is which network will broadcast the series. Blue Heron president Sue Ann Taylor, who wrote the screenplay for the series and is among its producers and directors, said they are negotiating with two networks. Fall 2024 is the most likely time frame for the debut, she said.



Set in 1865, near the end of the Civil War, the story follows a family heading West to seek better job prospects. A disaster along the way leaves the parents dead and the three teens and a baby struggling to survive on their own. A traveling preacher, heading West to establish a church, finds a different mission when he discovers the orphans.


Westville is rebuilding its village on South Lumpkin Road near the Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center and National Infantry Museum. The village is a living history museum that portrays a 19th century west Georgia town. The village will have more than 30 restored antebellum buildings.

Credit: Robin Trimarchi, Ledger-Inquirer

Every episode ends with the pastor praying to God for help in taking care of the children, Taylor said.

Actors attached to the series, according to Taylor, include Richard Tyson, Toni Hudson, Lesley-Anne Down, Alexander Kane, Landon Mandrick, Kennedy Mandrick, Walker Hudson Mintz, Irena Sylya and Jason Skeen.

The first season’s 13 episodes already are written, Taylor said, with three seasons plotted so far.



Westville seems to be a marvelous match for the novel’s setting, Taylor said, who was impressed with the “authenticity, the programs, the enthusiasm of the participants” when she took her grandchildren there.

“I love that location,” she said.

Taylor, whose mother died when she was young, also loves the novel for its themes of hope and resilience.

The series will show an era when women “took a giant leap forward from the Civil War, a dawning of a new day,” with their increased involvement in society, Taylor said. It also will show uplifting interactions between whites and people of color, she said.

“They discover a runaway slave girl, and the pastor explains that she isn’t a slave anymore,” Taylor said. “She joins the cast, and that’s part of the turning point for the older daughter. The two of them become really tight.”

The boy in the family befriends a Native American, whose ability to speak Cherokee helps prevent attacks, she said.



Westville temporarily has been closed since February. The Ledger-Enquirer reported in March that Westville still was recovering from the financial burdens of losing revenue because of its shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic and the $9.5 million cost of its 2019 move from Lumpkin, about 40 miles south of Columbus.

Now, Westville is engaging a consulting firm to develop a new strategy and vision to reopen it to the public, Singer said, and this TV series is a promising revenue opportunity.


Historic Westville on South Lumpkin Road in Columbus is a living history museum that portrays life in the 1800s in a village with antebellum buildings.

Credit: Robin Trimarchi, Ledger-Inquirer

“Westville certainly could use it,” he said.

No date for reopening Westville to the public is planned yet, Singer said. But when it does, the TV series could help generate publicity for it.

“It could be a great benefit for Westville,” he said.

The producers also plan to film some episodes at the site of the original Westville in Lumpkin.



Anyone interested in being a background actor or extra for the series can go to the production company’s website,, and follow the directions when they are posted, Taylor said. Approximately 50-100 volunteers would be selected for the initial filming period this summer, she said, then paid positions could be available for the subsequent filming period in the fall.

Blue Heron Films, headquartered in Talking Rock, Georgia, has produced or co-produced several movies, including Charlie’s Christmas Wish, which was released on streaming services in 2020 and is scheduled to be in theaters this fall, and Christmas at the Grey Horse Inn, which is planned for release in theaters during this year’s holiday season.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with the Ledger-Inquirer