I had a script, but not a finished script. So I would script a scene and then go shoot that scene, then write another scene and go and shoot that scene, not knowing if there was going to be anything more than just that scene, or those scenes. There was no improvisation at all. Improvisation means you don’t know what you’re doing, and you go out and try to get a bunch of people to do some stuff. Inland Empire was all scripted, scene by scene, but there was no indication of a feature film. Each scene was specific, had to be a certain way. Then, after five or six scenes, another whole bunch of things started coming, revealing the possibility of a feature.
One thing leads to another. This same process is always happening in script form. You get an idea, you write it out, you get another idea, you write it out—you don’t know if those two things are going to live in a final script, you don’t know if it’s going to be a feature or what it is, you just keep getting ideas and writing them. Then a little bit more and little bit more comes, and a feature script starts to emerge, so that lots and lots of work is done just in script form before you go out and start shooting. This was different and yet somewhat the same process [in Inland Empire] as one thing unfolding, another thing unfolding, and then the whole unfolding.
-David Lynch on Inland Empire