(Newsletter published by
the George Washington University’s
Elliott School of International Affairs)
(Winter 2004)

Alumna juggles roles as film producer, State Department employee

As a high school student, Erica Ginsberg was torn between two potential career paths — international affairs and the arts. Though she was deeply involved in an advanced visual arts program, her pragmatic side held sway. “I didn’t think I was the kind of person who could make a career of art,” she said.

Instead, Ginsberg followed her love of political science and enrolled as a freshman at the Elliott School [of International Affairs, George Washington University] in 1988. With the state of international affairs in upheaval, Ginsberg found herself drawn to the Foreign Service, and applied for an internship with the State Department. To her surprise, she was hired to work part-time in the Department’s language services office, which assigns interpreters to conferences and other events.

Ginsberg continued to work for the State Department after graduating from the Elliott School, and in an effort to integrate her artistic skills into her career, applied to the master’s program in film and video at American University. She received her degree in 1998, and for several years continued to look for ways to combine her interesting international affairs and the arts.

Then, at a Red Cross fundraiser in 1999, a cameraman named Leon Gerskovic struck up a conversation with Ginsberg. Gerskovic, a native of Croatia, began talking about the turmoil in the Balkans, and how much he would like to go back to his homeland and record the stories of those with lived through the recent conflict.

Gerskovic did end of traveling to Balkans and came back with what Ginsberg calls “amazing footage” of normal citizens — farmers, teachers, soldiers and others — describing how the war had affected their lives. Gerskovic asked Ginsberg to be the producer on his film, and she quickly agreed.

Gerskovic and Ginsberg finished editing the film, entitled Crucible of War, last summer, and have spent the last few months promoting it. (A sneak preview of the film will be shown at the Elliott School on March 25th). Ginsberg says the themes of Crucible of War are universal, even for those who may not know anything about the Balkans.

“The film really isn’t about the Balkans. It’s really about fear — how you find a way to transcend that fear,” she said.

With interest in Crucible of War growing, Ginsberg is now successfully juggling two careers. In 2001, she transferred to the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and now works for the International Visitor Program, organizing professional programs for leaders from Europe and Africa. “It’s really important to start working in a job as early as you can,” she said. “It’s important to try different things and figure out what you want to do.”

For more information about the Elliott School sneak preview of Crucible of War, go to our “News and Events” site at   For additional information about the documentary, go to


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