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Production schedules are fairly rigid for a variety of reasons. Locations must be arranged in advance and permits are needed; guest cast, regular cast, directors and crew must be scheduled. Standard contracts require cast and crew be paid even if production is cancelled. Each day production is running has fixed overhead costs. [[Jared]] mentioned in a Convention Q&A that their contracts require that the actors not take the last flight of the day when returning to Vancouver if they're filming the next day. Apparently they can get special permission to violate this rule (he was doing it for this con) but in general even returning from LA for the weekend they have to take an earlier flight than the last one of the day to avoid the risk of them not getting back to Vancouver in time to film the next day.
A normal season has 22 episodes a year. Season 3 was shortened to 16 episodes because of the writers strike; Seasons 7-
10 were extended to 23 episodes by the network.
Production begins around the beginning of July and finishes around the end of March. Episodes take 8 weekdays to shoot but that is either 10 or 12 or more calendar days counting Saturdays, Sundays, single day holidays, and longer breaks at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The episodes are aired once a week, so production must start in the middle of the summer to stay ahead of the broadcast schedule even with breaks between airing groups of episodes. Holidays from shooting may include the first Monday of August (British Columbia Day), the first Monday of September (Labor Day), the second Monday of October (Canadian Thanksgiving), the 11th of November (Remembrance day), the entire 4th week of November (US Thanksgiving), 2-3 weeks at the end of December/Jan (Christmas, Boxing Day, New Years), the second Monday of February (Family Day, starting in 2013), and the Friday before Easter (Good Friday) if it falls before the end of shooting.