These are just a few breakup types Megan Rosati explored in her YouTube series 52 Ways to Break Up. In 52 episodes, the Los Angeles-based writer/actor/producer extraordinaire tackled an entire year's worth of breakups.
We caught up with Megan to discuss the creation of the series, heartbreak, bad dates and how much we love Karen O.
I have to ask, did this idea come from a breakup of yours?
It didn’t come from any one particular breakup! I had dated a lot the previous year and I realized I was putting a lot of energy into these guys, and I was tired of it. So I thought if I was clearly interested in being in dramatic situations with dudes, I might as well control it and have something to show for it at the end of the day. I also wanted to write and act in a web series that was small enough in scale for me to produce, but was also still exciting and interesting to people who were not me. A breakup is one of the most dramatic things you can do with just two people and a camera in a room, which was basically all I could afford to do! I also thought it would be voyeuristic and fun for others to watch- if you’ve ever seen a couple breakup in public, it’s like watching a car wreck. You can’t turn away.
What I love about the episodes so far is that they display such a wide range of emotions. Some are heartbreaking, some are funny, some are quiet, some are loud. How did you choose 52? I'm hoping they were not all yours!
Oh gosh, no way! None of these breakups happened to me in the way that they are shown in the series. They’re all inspired by something that happened, or a comment someone made, or a story my friend said, but nothing is one to one with real life. I actually tried to write an episode that was just a transcription of a fight I had with a guy, and it didn’t work at all - it was too flat and depressing! I purposely tried to vary the tone in the episodes first of all because, I wanted people to watch and be entertained! They couldn’t all be downers, or people wouldn’t keep watching. Also, breakups aren’t always JUST sad in real life. Sometimes when something terrible is happening to me, there’s a small part of me that’s like, wow this is so awful it’s also funny. Or sometimes you realize that the relationship was bad, and the breakup pushes you to start something new and stop what wasn’t working with your situation at the time.
Ghost is my favorite so far because it captures the tech element that makes modern breakups painful. I guess the equivalent of an unanswered text would have been an unanswered letter in past generations...both unnerving, but at least the letter left a tiny bit of uncertainty...like, maybe the letter got lost in the mail or eaten by the dog. It's harder to make those excuses with a text. Do you have a favorite episode, or is it like choosing favorite children?
I thought Ghost would connect with people! Texting is such an awkward medium because you don’t have any idea what’s going on with the person on the other end of the phone - like I always want to give people the benefit of the doubt. I sometimes joke with my friends, “Look on the bright side! Maybe he’s dead!” Like, you don’t KNOW what’s happening.
My two favorite episodes so far are Bad Timing and Give Up. I love Bad Timing because it’s a really clear episode, where the breakup was no one’s fault. The actor in it, Chris Dinh, was so wonderful, and the episode came out as just this beautiful moment of vulnerability between two people. It had a great arc, of starting out so hopeful, and ending up so sad, that I just really loved the journey that this couple went on.
I also loved Give Up, because my director, Will Lamborn, was so creative in how he filmed it, that it came out looking like this beautiful mini movie. I also happen to think the idea was really, really funny. Like when I was looking at cuts of it, I would just start cackling to myself because the more depressing it got, the funnier I thought it was. I love really deadpan, dark humor, and I thought that episode really nailed that tone.
The series trailer music is a cover of The Moon Song (originally by Karen O), performed by you. That song always makes me cry, and your version is so lovely. Actually, every song throughout the series feels very carefully chosen. Did you work with a music supervisor? Did you have certain songs you knew you wanted to use?
(Laughs) My music supervisor was me! I knew I wanted to use The Moon Song for the trailer, because I had a vision of what the trailer would look like - this beautiful wistful song, with this like, AWKWARD pause. I decided I wanted original music for the end credits of each episode, but I didn’t have any money to pay anyone. So I went through all my contacts, and figured out who I knew that was a musician or in a band. Then I listened to all their music and figured out what would work for each episode, and then reached out to the artists and asked if I could use it! One of my friends, Neha, wrote an original song (for the episode Bad Timing), and I reached out to a friend who has an indie radio show for some recommendations.
Has working through so many stories given you a new perspective on breakups? Anything you do differently now in relationships or breakups?
Oh phew, that’s a tough one. I’m just bumbling through, doing the best I can. Personally, I’ve tried to take the perspective with dating that if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be, and to not stress out about whether something is going to “work out” or not. I just try to stay in the moment, enjoy the good stuff while it happens, without worrying about the future or thinking too far ahead. When you do that, you miss the good stuff that’s happening right in front of you.
It’s hard for me, because I’m a neurotic over thinker - hello, I wrote a series about breakups! I just naturally imagine the worst. But just because a relationship isn’t right for forever, doesn’t mean it isn’t important in your life for right now, so I try not focus on the end. I mean, best case scenario is you marry your soulmate and then forty years later, one of you dies, so...it’s all in your perspective.
Also my aunt once told me, a bad date is a good story. So now when I stress out about dating I think, well, at the very least, I’ll have an idea for another episode (laughs).
Yes, maybe your next series should be about bad dates! Alright, if you can think back to the last time you were really heartbroken...knowing what you know now, what would you tell that version of yourself?
Honestly, I could have come back from the future and told me all about my life right now, and how much better it is, and it wouldn’t have mattered one bit. I was just crushed and had to live through it. Sometimes all you can do is get through each day and wait for the pages of time to keep turning so your heartbreak is far enough in the past you can heal.
I guess I would tell myself what all my friends said, which is, you’re so much better off, you will do so many good things now that you were never able to do before, you will learn, you will grow. But growing is painful, nobody wants to change! I guess I’d be like, don’t smoke so many cigarettes! But Past Megan would’ve been like, fuck you, so (laughs)!
(Laughs) I agree about getting through one day at a time. What are your must-have items after a breakup?
Friends to cuddle you. Pad thai so you don’t have to cook. Comfortable pants. Good music so you don’t feel alone, and bad cheesy music, because sometimes the crappy stuff on the radio nails it better than any “cool” song. Some shit to do that doesn’t involve thinking or passive watching, like painting or playing an instrument or collaging. Distraction is calming and good.
And Magic Mike. You can’t not smile while watching Magic Mike.
I have never seen it! (Note to self made.) Okay...favorite song about heartbreak?
I have SO MANY favorite songs about heartbreak so I can only narrow it down to two: Youth by Daughter and Creator, Destroyer by Angel Olsen.
I mayyyy or may not have listened to this multiple times a day during a particularly tough breakup. The lyrics are just so good - “My eyes are damp, from the words you left/ Ringing in my head, when you broke my chest.” It’s like, just how it feels.
I also love everything Angel Olsen does, but in particular I dig the song Creator, Destroyer.
It’s got such a great retro vibe, and is so sweet and catchy, until you realize she’s saying she’s a “murderous bitch” that’s “out of my mind.” And it’s so epic, with just her and a guitar. She really captures that feeling of longing and hatred that go together when you’ve lost someone you really loved. So epic.
Sidenote, have you heard Karen O's new album Crush Songs? You'd like it.
I looooove Crush Songs! I have the album and it’s so good. In my dream world I am collaborating with Karen O and she’d let me use a crush song per episode and we would just skip off into the sunset!
You can subscribe to Megan's series on YouTube.