To formalize our understanding of indiscriminate grafting chemistries as they pertain to cross-linkable polymers and emerging patterning technologies, we designed a new polymer, poly(styrene sulfonyl azide-alt-maleic anhydride) (PSSMA). By modulating its solubility, it can be deposited into smooth, ultrathin films atop polar and nonpolar polymers. Upon heating above 120 °C or exposure to UV light, highly reactive nitrene intermediates are generated from the azide groups which form covalent adducts and cross-link the PSSMA. Azide photolysis and polymer gelation were studied in the context of a statistical model to gain insight into the network outcomes of nitrenes in a polymer film. For every azide group converted to a nitrene in ambient atmosphere, it has an 11% likelihood of grafting to another chain and a 5% chance of causing a scission. These values can be increased over 3-fold by reducing the O2 content by 85%. Alternatively, the effects of quenching by ground-state O2 can be mitigated by adding Michler's ketone (MK) to the film. PSSMA/MK blend films possess a 39% (±13) likelihood for grafting and 29% (±10) for scission. The higher ratio of scission to grafting is a consequence of the sensitized azides producing triplet-state nitrenes, which favor hydrogen abstraction. These broadly generalizable considerations will be useful to others who wish to maximize light sensitivity in related polymer systems.