Filmmaker Ken Burns' "The War" debuted last night on PBS. The seven-part series takes a look at World War II through the eyes of the residents of four American towns: Waterbury, Connecticut; Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; and Luverne, Minnesota.

Like all of Burns' films, "The War" is a sprawling, ambitious project. How does the filmmaker synthesize millions of images and hours upon hours of witness testimonials? One aspect of his method is that he retreats to a creative haven to clear his mind.

In 2002, John Grossmann wrote in Inc. about Burns' New Hampshire office, a mini version of Jefferson's home, Monticello, which Burns built for $35,000 after his breakthrough documentary "The Civil War." Though it is only a few paces away from the barn where his company, Florentine Films, is based, Burns sees the freestanding brick structure as a place where he can escape from day-to-day work to focus on the bigger picture--or to lose focus, depending on his psychological needs at the time.

"I use it to get away from the ringing phones, to be alone," Burns told Grossmann. "If I'm there, everybody knows I'm not to be disturbed -- unless my children call. I'll read, write on a legal pad, maybe a speech that I have to give."

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