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Five Friends Synopsis

We live in the age of the “bromance.” Never has pop culture been so fascinated with male friendships. What do they look like? Why are they important? And how do we talk about them without seeming … unmanly? Films like “I Love You, Man” or the recent GQ article entitled “Are You Man Enough for the Man-Date?” are just a couple of examples of how society is wrestling with what male relationships look like in our evolving society. But even the word “bromance” implies a certain awkwardness and uncertainty about how to refer to these close relationships between men.

Early American writer and philosopher, Elbert Hubbard, said, “My father always used to say that when you die, if you’ve got five real friends, you’ve had a great life.” Five Friends is the story of how one man sought to live that life. Beautifully shot, from the mountains of Southern California to the New England coastline, Five Friends captures the intimate relationships of a 65-year-old man and his five friends as they reflect on their lives together, support each other in personal struggle and mine the depths of meaningful friendship. Success, conflict, marriage, divorce, fatherhood, children and dying. These men reveal their fears and dreams to one another in a profound exploration of vulnerability and transparency among men. From touching moments to horrific tragedy and darkness, the spectrum of human emotion colors this breathtaking portrait.

This delicate and often taboo subject of male intimacy is navigated by experts in the field. Michael Kimmel is a sociologist at SUNY Stonybrook and author of more than twenty books on men and masculinity. He provides unique insight from his study of how men relate to each other and the obstacles to men connecting with each other. Alan Frow is a pastor in Southern California who teaches and speaks to men around the world in a variety of cultures. Frow offers a profound perspective of intimacy that exposes some of the hidden insecurities that lie beneath the fragile masculine façade. As these five friendships unfold, our experts discuss the complex relational pressures acting on men and reveal the increasing importance of confronting these issues.

Men need men, it’s just that we don’t talk about it. Five Friends is a ground-breaking documentary that forces the conversation and explores what it means for men to be loving, transparent, vulnerable and even intimate with each other.


Erik Santiago – Writer/Producer/Director

Erik is a filmmaker and pastor in Southern California. Husband of one, father of three.  He began his career in advertising at the Fallon agency in Minneapolis where he produced television commercials for a range of household names including BMW, Time Magazine, Miller Lite and United Airlines.

In 1999 Erik started a company on the east coast specializing in media communications consulting for major corporations. His company’s clients included GE, Pepsi, International Paper, GAP, Gillette and The White House. After having overseen product launches, publicity campaigns and large-scale events in sporting arenas, Erik started Los Angeles-based Captive Pictures to produce entertainment. Also a teaching pastor at Southlands Church in Brea, California, his passion for the power of story is an integral part of what moves his work.

Among the feature film scripts and shorts he has created in the past five years, Erik is making his feature film directorial debut with “Five Friends.” Combining his love of cinema and appreciation for the richness of life’s journey, he has set out to explore the importance of close, transparent friendships. He is continually fascinated by the authentic, raw and unique beauty of each distinct human life.

Erik graduated from Boston College.

Hank Mandel – Producer & Collaborator

I have a passion for family, people, relationships, animals, the New York Yankees and Giants and work. An eclectic career that has truly been an adventure that includes; Associate Professor, Yale University School of Medicine; Private Therapist for families, individuals & couples; Producer & Director for the Country Music Association; owner of a marketing & human resources consulting firm, Executive Officer at a bank and Executive Director of a foundation. .

I have known fellow documentation, producer and friend, Erik Santiago, for about ten years.  Our friendship began when I contacted Erik’s company for production services and we soon realized that our connection would go well beyond work. Now, the two of us are partnering to explore, illuminate, discuss, challenge and raise awareness for the vitally important subject of deep connections in male friendships.

I live in Connecticut am happily married, have two beautiful daughters and four Greyhound dogs. I graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Theater and achieved my graduate degree at the School of Social Work at Rutgers University.

Due to my Dyslexia, in 1963 the principal of my high school told me that I should “aspire to own a gas station.” I have not achieved this goal to date.


Ken Stewart

Ken Stewart – Co-Producer

Ken Stewart is a producer and marketing consultant with expertise in film, television and trans-media (where traditional media meets “new” media). Ken oversees the business of Stewart Communications and Chatterbox Marketing. Currently, Ken is co-producing “Five Friends,” a film about the importance and beauty of male friendship.

Additionally, Ken has several movie projects in various stages of development. Prior to founding Stewart Communications and Chatterbox Marketing, Stewart acted as both a marketing and sales executive at Pamplin Music Distribution; and as an interactive content producer at CTI, Inc., where he was responsible for the creation of building community and online content. Stewart also pioneered the bundling of AOL software in commercial music releases. He has produced and directed a variety of film, video, and multi-media projects.

Stewart holds a B.S. in Organizational Leadership and M.B.A. from Biola University. He resides in La Mirada, California, enjoying time with his wife and two young children.

Sean Conaty

Sean Conaty – Director of Photography

Sean’s feature credits – both narrative and documentary – include “Xander Cohen”, a gritty independent drama shot on s16mm about a Puerto Rican boxer in Los Angeles. His work has played at festivals across the world including Sundance, Berlin, and Dubai and his experimental short “Breathe” was nominated for a Student Academy Award and shown at TED Talks.

His commercial clients include Coca Cola, CISCO Systems, Scion, Post Cereal, and Weight Watchers and he has shot music videos for Guster, Ben Harper, and Cornelius.

Sean earned a degree in Philosophy from Boston College and holds an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California.

Kyle Gilbertson

Kyle Gilbertson – Editor

Kyle Gilbertson is an editor, writer and documentarian based out of Whittier, Ca. A graduate of Biola University film school, he is currently editing “TXT,” a short documentary he co-directed about kids and cell phones, and writing a script about estate sales. He is also working for a 3d conversion company in South Pasadena.

Outtake: What Men Do in Crisis

Outtake: Men Offer Something That Women Can’t

Outtake: Male Intimacy is a Virtual Wasteland

Outtake: Homophobia

Outtake: The Power of Male Relationships

Outtake: The Difference Between Men and Women

Christianity Today

“…few have tackled the topic as deeply, poignantly, sensitively, and seriously as filmmaker Erik Santiago…I was more moved and motivated about male friendships from this film than I have been by any Promise Keepers event, Bible study, or weekend men’s retreat.”



Connecticut Magazine

“It’s a film that, wherever it’s been shown since its April debut, has provoked laughter and tears…Women who saw the film, responding to many of its poignant scenes, asked to show it to their brothers and fathers.”



Premiere Screening Reactions

Montgomery Media

Hollywood doesn’t cope well with male relationships…But “Five Friends” doesn’t just combat popular hesitations and stereotypes in Hollywood. There’s a more universal goal at work here…Santiago’s film is a risky one.  But when stepping away from the deceptive simplicity of the narrative, there’s a much deeper thread at work.



Jewish Daily Forward

“When straight men are asked who’s their best friend, most will answer, “My wife.” When women are asked the same question, most will say it’s another woman…‘Five Friends’ tackles the problems men face when having non-sexual, intimate relationships.”



ManKind Project

“Five Friends is beautifully shot, simply and tastefully edited, funny, painful, poignanta movie that inspires ‘bros’, ‘buds’ and ‘dudes’ to reach for something more in their relationships – with themselves and with each other.”

-Boysen Hodgsen, MANKIND PROJECT


Psychology Today

“A great new hour long documentary has just arrived from Erik Santiago and Ken Stewart about one man’s connections with [five] men friends. The film shows…how [men] can engage in deeply moving discussions about feelings, life, marriages lost, and relationships…It is well-done and understated.”



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