Screenwriting

Interview with WeScreenplay Co-Founder Mark Stasenko

By July 3, 2018 No Comments

Mark is the co-founder of WeScreenplay and passionate about all things writing. Mark is a professional screenwriter himself and was most recently a staff writer on season 2 of the award-winning Netflix show American Vandal.

1. How did you start and grow WeScreenplay?

When adapting a book or a true story to a screenplay you always condense characters and timelines into something simple and streamlined, so let’s do the same here.

WeScreenplay was created to scratch my own itch. I had just quit my corporate job after paying off some student loans and moved to Los Angeles. Like most writers who quit their jobs and move to LA, I wasn’t exactly loaded. I tried one or two coverage services and saw the incredible importance and value of unbiased feedback, but it was pretty expensive.

I had some friends who were assistants and readers in Los Angeles, so I took the cover page off my script and offered to pay one of them to do a coverage report on the script, saying it was just a friend’s script so the feedback would be honest. They tore the script apart; it was a bootcamp in learning how readers perceive your story. Some of my writer friends asked me to do the same thing for them so I passed a few scripts back-and-forth.

Cut to Scot Lawrie, he was a software engineer in Philadelphia and offered to build a website to automate this back-and-forth of scripts. At first this software was just WeScreenplay’s secret sauce for fast coverage, but eventually, we spun it off into its own service and branded it as Coverfly.

WeScreenplay started as a straightforward website and we decided to price the coverage so that aspiring writers could actually afford coverage from professional readers. Anyone who has used WeScreenplay can attest that we’re half the cost of any competitor. We have a faster turnaround and usually more detailed notes, too. Even as we’ve grown, we’ve kept the prices really affordable and plan to always keep them that way.

2. Is coverage actually valuable?

Look, you can Google that question and find hundreds of different answers in blogs and threads all over the internet. For me, the answer is simple: if you’re willing to really absorb the notes given, then yes, absolutely, script coverage is valuable.

I studied engineering; I never went to film school. No one ever taught me how to write scripts. My own version of an MFA program was two things: reading screenplays and getting feedback on my screenplays. That’s how I learned how to write. Not every single piece of feedback I received was perfect, but I’ve received probably 100 rounds of notes (certainly not all paid reads) on my many different scripts, and the cumulative power of that development process has been totally game-changing.

Was my way of learning how to write free? No. Was it tens of thousands of dollars cheaper than an MFA? You betcha. Which is better? Totally depends on how you work and what your priorities are. For me, ample feedback on my specific screenplays was a fantastic way to go and led me to some awesome career opportunities.

3. What are your goals for WeScreenplay?

I want WeScreenplay to be a place where writers, no matter where they live, what their writing goals are, what their experience is, or who they are, can afford solid notes from experienced, professional, paid script readers. My focus for WeScreenplay will always be low cost, quick turnaround, and high-quality script feedback.

On the contest side, I want us to be the brand of inclusion and discovering amazing new and talented voices. In just a few short years, WeScreenplay’s screenwriting contests have raised over $12k for charities and helped writers sign with managers and take the first big step in their professional career. My goal? I want to double the money we raise this year and triple the number of writers we give a leg up.

4. What sets WeScreenplay’s script coverage apart?

There are so many good script coverage companies out there and I don’t want to take anything away from any of them. I’ve received coverage from many of them and have had consistently helpful, productive feedback. I’ve never paid for coverage that hasn’t helped me as a writer.

One really nice thing about WeScreenplay is that many coverage companies take two or three weeks to return feedback, WeScreenplay takes two to three days. You’re spending less time waiting and more time writing.

5. Why did WeScreenplay eventually join with The Script Lab in full partnership?

We joined with The Script Lab because they had incredible, free educational content for writers and a large existing audience. They were already using our Coverfly software to manage their notes services, and their team was interested in making an exit to explore new opportunities. WeScreenplay, at the time, didn’t have an active blog, so this was a great way for us to provide great educational content to a wider audience of writers and grow our reach and voice.

The partnership with ScreenCraft was a bit more interesting. I actually met the guys from ScreenCraft when I won the ScreenCraft Fellowship back in 2015. After Scot developed Coverfly as a screenwriting competition management software, I reached out to the ScreenCraft guys in mid-2016 to see if they’d be interested in using Coverfly. They liked Coverfly so much, they offered a merger deal. Our parent company is now Red Ampersand, Inc.

Every decision our company makes is grounded in one idea: will this help advance a writer’s career? Whether that’s better notes to improve their writing, a contest with a specific industry jury, or hiring staff to guide the talented writers who are discovered through our many programs.

6. What’s next for the Red Ampersand team overall?

We’re going to keep focusing on how can we help writers. WeScreenplay is dedicated to providing the most affordable, high-quality coverage. With operational excellence, we can keep the middleman cost as low as possible and continue to provide that. Coverfly just rolled out a cool new feature called coverflyX, which is a free peer-to-peer script exchange like Trigger Street Labs used to be. I used Trigger Street all the time when I was a new writer, and we felt like writers needed that opportunity for an easy, efficient place to trade notes. The Script Lab will continue to create daily screenwriting educational content and we’re launching a massive video series with dozens of interviews with the best industry pros that is going to change the game for writers looking for an insight into the industry early on. And ScreenCraft is going to continue with best-in-class contests and educational events that help propel writers’ careers. Can’t wait to show the world the new features and opportunities we’ll be rolling out soon.


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